The number of Americans traveling overseas has finally exceeded the peak in 2006 before the Great Recession. And it did so with a bang in 2014, with 10% more foreign vacations taken by Americans than in 2013.
The Great Recession clobbered foreign travel to certain destinations like Africa, but it didn’t clobber overall foreign travel. What seems to have happened is that individuals and families that would normally have taken an exotic vacation scaled back, perhaps to Europe or the Caribbean, but they didn’t stop vacationing outright.
Notable was that there were no new travelers entering the market. Although there were millions of new wage earners from 2006 to 2013, very few of those actually took vacations.
Last year that changed with a bang.
Here are the destinations that grew the most: the ones that really require you to now book early if you don’t want to be disappointed:
Mexico. By far! Increasing almost 22% per year, with more than 25 million Americans traveling there last year, one in three Americans who travels abroad now travels to Mexico.
You’ll be surprised at Number 2: The Middle East. 1.8 million Americans traveled there last year, an annual increase of nearly 13%.
This doesn’t mean vacations in Syria, to be sure. Even Israel had a slowdown. What it indicates is the growing travel through major Middle East hubs like Dubai and Qatar, plus the significant increase in vacation travel to Egypt.
Number 3 is the Caribbean and Number 4 is Central America.
There were palsy increases to exotic destinations like Africa (only 1.7%), but nonetheless increases for the first time following a number of years of decreases.
Places like Africa will continue to struggle until Europe gets out of its recession. Africa’s largest market has always been from Europe. Were it not for a steady and sizable increase in Asian and eastern Europeans vacationers to Africa over the last 5 years, the tourism situation there would be dire.
If Europe rebounds, Africa could be in a very tight booking situation. Chinese, South American and eastern Europeans are increasing their travel to Africa substantially.
Europe rebounding depends upon how quickly the European movement to embrace stimulus is successful. Austerity has not worked, stimulus has worked in the U.S. and China, and a growing number of European politicians now recognize their error.
I’d give it three years.
But for you Americans who’ve enjoyed booking anything you want at the last minute, beware. Disappointment follows delay!