By Mark Okrant
NH Travel Guru
Last week, we began a two-part celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week by presenting a set of pertinent facts about international visitation to the US.
The intent is to provide a set of tools that assist you, InDepthNH.org readers, to assess #45’s impact upon the country’s vital travel and tourism industry. This week, attention turns toward domestic travel measures. (Note: for the record, the April 16th NH Travel Guru column documented the impact of travel and tourism on New Hampshire’s economy and general well-being.)
In an effort to help you further evaluate the DC administration’s first quarter in office, we look at a list of domestic travel-related factors. For this task, I always turn to David Huether, a leading expert in assessing the health of the country’s travel and tourism industry. David is the senior vice president of research at the U.S. Travel Association. This column provides you with a peek at his April report.
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the total value of goods and services produced in the US during the past year: this grew by only 0.7 percent during the first quarter of 2017, following a gain of 2.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2016. It represents the lowest rate since the fourth quarter of 2014.
- Consumer spending: after powering the economy for much of 2016, early indicators show that consumer spending slowed measurably during the first quarter of 2017.
- Consumer confidence—a measure of consumers’ feelings about current and future economic conditions: this reached 125.6 during the first quarter of 2017, the highest total since December 2000.
- Labor: new job creation in March 2017 reached 98,000. This is an unimpressive figure when projections called for nearly double that figure. However, one must remember that the 4.5 percent unemployment figure represents a ten year low.
- Travel trends index—a measure of the direction and pace of travel volume within and to the US, generally involving a hotel stay, air travel, or both: this grew at a slower rate during February than January. Domestic leisure travel grew slightly, while domestic business travel experienced a slight decline.
- Revenue per available room (RevPAR)—average daily room rate multiplied times occupancy rate: this experienced positive direction during February 2017.
- Air travel: the US growth rate of 0.3 percent is the slowest of all global regions.
- Road travel: increased by 2.2 percent during the first quarter of 2017, compared to 2016. (It is worth noting that 80+ percent of all domestic US leisure trips are by automobile, truck, or RV; 16 percent are via air, and the remainder by bus, train, boat, etc. combined.)
- Gasoline prices—has a greater impact upon short-length stays than longer ones: at $2.39 per gallon, this is the highest price during the last year.
- Weather: it was unseasonably warm during the first quarter of 2017 throughout much of the US. Impacts varied regionally.
So, what does all of this tell us? There is little here to cause you to raise a glass of champagne and shout, Hallelujah! On the other hand, in the vernacular of our television meteorologist friends: the prospects for the US domestic travel industry appear to be partly sunny.
Okay, enough of this super-serious stuff! I promise that next week’s column will contain an especially dark perspective of travel.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.
For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, click here.