Days after the U.S. reopened its land and air borders to vaccinated international visitors, U.S. Travel Association (USTA) released its biannual forecast which shows an uneven recovery for the international inbound and business travel segments, while domestic leisure travel has returned to near pre-pandemic levels.

The forecast, based on analysis from Tourism Economics, projects that domestic leisure travel will continue to drive the U.S. travel industry’s recovery in the near term. This segment is projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and beyond.

Domestic business travel spending is expected to reach 76% of 2019 levels in 2022 while the segment is not expected to fully recover until 2024.

International inbound travel spending is forecasted to reach 72% of 2019 levels in 2022. The segment is not expected to fully recover until 2024 or 2025.

“While we see much reason for optimism on the horizon, our forecast reveals that travel’s recovery is uneven with much work ahead to ensure all segments reach pre-pandemic levels,” said Roger Dow, president/CEO, USTA. “We believe that the U.S. can implement smart, effective policies that bring back international visitors more quickly and spur business and professional travel to accelerate an economic and jobs rebound.”

Policies to accelerate the travel industry’s recovery:

  • Fully reopen and resume visitor visa processing at U.S embassies and consulates
  • Ensure Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration officers are adequately resourced
  • Pass the Restoring Brand USA Act to provide emergency relief funding to Brand USA, the United States’ destination marketing organization
  • Enact temporary tax credits to restore demand for in-person professional meetings and events

“Stabilizing policies can help ensure a more even recovery as we aim to restore the U.S. as the top destination in the world for global travelers,” added Dow.