Americans need to travel more.
I don’t know when I first noticed it, and it’s very subtle, but there’s very few Americans around when I’m backpacking overseas and people often mistake me for Canadian at first.
It’s quite rare to see young Americans out here in the wild.
Why is that?
Is this just anecdotal of my experience or do Americans just not travel as much as Canadians or Europeans?
Considering we are a nation of ~330 million people, the 3rd most populous nation in the world and by far the wealthiest nation overall, America clearly has enough people who are well-off enough to travel.
Perhaps Americans don’t see the value in travelling overseas? I can only speculate as to the reasons why not.
Maybe there is a deep-rooted cultural norm for us to stay in the homeland. have kids, and work dutifully until we retire, because only then will we have enough time and money to see the world.
Perhaps they’re scared of the world and think it’s too dangerous.
I’ll always remember what my boss’ boss’ boss (yes, 3 levels of middle managers) said in 2017 when I mentioned I was leaving my job to go to the Philippines. I’m paraphrasing here but he said something along the lines of “The Philippines is really dangerous place, you’re going to get robbed or killed over there” I asked him if he’d ever travelled internationally to which he replied “No, only to Mexico a couple times for vacation.”
After that it was clear to me that some Americans are simply scared to travel overseas and know nothing outside of what they hear from the media.
Whatever the reason is, we need to break free from the old way of thinking and start thinking differently about international travel.
I’m going to try and find real facts about the American population to see what demographic are the travellers and present the findings here.
Solely because I’m curious…
The first piece of evidence I’d like to point out is this infographic…
Found on the Huffington Post but provided by Blogger C.G.P. Grey per the watermark.
These are troubling to say the least and interesting at best. As you can see, incredibly low passport ownership nationwide and helps solidify the fact that the majority of Americans do not have a passport.
In fact, according to the 2017 passport statistics per the State Department, about 136,114,038 of Americans own a valid passport.
Given the population of America in 2017 is estimated at 325,719,178 per the Census Bureau that leaves us at ~42% of the US population with a passport.
Now, that number is an estimation because it doesn’t take into account foreign-born U.S. residents who needed a passport from their own country to get to America or undocumented residents or residents that cannot obtain passports (such as someone convicted of a felony) …
So basically that percentage could go down a bit but still, 42% is a good estimate of the upper limit.
The Huffington Post did a piece on a similar question which I think is pretty good with a lot of factual numbers and found that just 3.5% of US residents travel overseas.
But that doesn’t answer the real question which is, what demographic of Americans travel overseas?
Imma get there.
But first, where are these 42% of American’s travelling to?
According to the US International Air Travel Statistics, U.S. Citizen Travel to International Regions 2017 data
87,703,442 total international trips
38,327,458 trips overseas or 43.7% of the total trips
35,050,060 trips to Mexico (by air and land combined) or 40% of the total trips
14,325,924 trips to Canada or 16.3% of the total trips
Now these sound like a lot but persons taking multiple trips are not taken into account. For example, last year, in 2017: I flew to Asia, Europe, and Oceania all in one year. Three separate overseas trips, one man.
Basically 56.3% of International trips are to Mexico or Canada, I hardly consider these trips “international” in my book because it’s still North America but whatever, technically it is. Canada is basically the USA anyways jk lol don’t @ me.
From the same source, The National Travel and Tourism Office, a report called “2017 Profile of U.S. Resident Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations (Outbound)” gives a detailed breakdown of Male/Female traveler % and average age.
The report was compiled from a self-administered survey by passengers who volunteered to take it so I don’t know how that could affect accuracy, I assume it’s fine since the government uses this info to provide export/import GDP data for the country. I’m also going to focus on U.S. Travelers for Leisure/Visit Friends & Relatives sector and exclude the business travelers for the comparison which were a different demographic and not relevant here. (Sorry business folks)
So here it is:
If you were to combine all the top traveller characteristics into one American, that person would be a…
Middle-aged 44-year-old white female from California visiting 1 country for vacation, with an annual household income of $123,676 (over twice the U.S. median household income nationwide) going on 2 international trips a year staying about 15 days and in hotels for about 10 nights.
I’m fascinated by these stats.
It’s like a secret cheat code into knowing who to target for travel ads or something.
But as a backpacker I am the opposite of the typical American traveler. I’m a…
29-year-old white male from California visiting 10 countries in 2017 alone for vacation, with an annual household income of about $6,000 going on the trip of a lifetime visiting as many countries as I can until I die staying in hostels like Nomads World (affiliate link), Airbnb’s (referral code), renting apartments, and even living in a van.
I guess this answers my question and now I know what the demographic of American travellers are even if it wasn’t what I had imagined.
But the other question I had was do Americans travel more or less than other nations? Because it appears to me that it’s less.
Well, luckily I found what I was looking for from a reputable source, the UNWTO.
The World Tourism Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that reports statistics of the tourism industry worldwide.
To my astonishment and against my speculation, Americans travel A LOT. Well, more precisely they SPEND a lot but it’s an important distinction.
And where is everybody spending? Europe. This echoes the finding provided by the source above, the National Travel and Tourism Office.
There’s lots of statistics out there but I just couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for which was, which countries travel the most. You could estimate that whoever is spending the most is travelling the most and that’s probably quite accurate as a guess but it’s not the answer I was looking for exactly.
I was looking for volume of travellers and from where, not money spent in foreign lands but I guess they’re very similar in a way.
While I find these stats interesting, I don’t want to get too deep into the rabbit hole and drawing more distinctions of travel trends than I have to. I already covered what I wanted to cover, strictly American tourism trends and demographics.
Maybe I’ll do another post on it again in the future but I’ll admit, this post got a bit out of hand as I kept finding sources for statistics and wanting to add them into the post.
I guess this needs to be said but if you don’t have one already, click this link to get a passport from the State Department website or visit your local USPS.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
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