Although the United States is one of the most desired places to visit worldwide, competition is strong. While destination marketing often aims to highlight what makes a place appealing, it is helpful to understand what challenges and barriers are influencing travelers to go elsewhere. Brand USA therefore tracks intentions to travel to the U.S. on a regular basis and for those who do not intend to visit, what drives that lack of intent.
In the markets that Brand USA surveys (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the U.K.) over three quarters of respondents are planning to take an international trip in the next 12 months (see Figure 1). Japanese consumers are the least likely to travel internationally in the near future. The overall weakness of the Japanese economy coupled with recent sales tax increases have led to an overall decrease in consumer spending and demand for travel.
Of those who intend to take an international trip in the next 12 months, over a quarter plan to visit the United States (see Figure 2). For those who did not intend to visit the U.S. (“non-visitors”), the reasons for not visiting differed slightly from market to market.
Wanting to save up enough money for the trip was the main reason for European “non-visitors” (France, Germany and the U.K.) to not visit the U.S. This finding reflects that desire to visit and competitive standing is strong, and the barrier to visitation is financial. From a marketing perspective, highlighting travel deals and sales may be an effective way to combat this barrier.
The devaluation of the currency exchange rate is the primary reason for Canadian and Brazilian visitors to not consider the US. 40% of Canadian and 31% of Brazilian “non-visitors” stated that currency was the main reason for not traveling to the U.S. in the near future. Particularly for Brazilian travelers who are mainly coming to the U.S. to shop, currency exchange rates have significantly increased the price of a trip.
Coming to the U.S. is a big trip for Australian and Indian travelers, and many indicated they need more time to plan. The journey from these two markets is long and often times costly, so Australian and Indian travelers who do come often stay for two weeks or more. Indian travelers in particular often travel with extended family and visit multiple U.S. destinations. These trips involve much planning and preparation. Providing trip planning tools such as sample itineraries, maps, travel tips and visa/customs information would help make this process easier.
For Asia (Japan, Korean and China), Australia and Mexico, wanting to visit other countries first is the primary reason for not coming to the U.S. Mexican travelers are also more likely to have already visited the U.S. and are looking for other places to go. This “been there, done that” sentiment is an underlying challenge for the U.S. in many markets, but competition from European destinations is the main driver of this response. Relative currency value exacerbates the competitive strength of Europe in the short term as the Euro is approximately 20% undervalued compared to the dollar. Despite the short term challenges of currency exchange rates, Brand USA expects 2015 to be another record year for international arrivals overall.