airplane_travel

How many people travel every year

Written by Hank Martin in The Backpack

Every year around 10% of the U.S. population travels. But, there is a catch. The numbers are worse than they seem.

Breaking Trail is all about choosing rour own path and making rour own decisions. We experiment, traveling with dietary restrictions to give you tips to do the same, figure out ways to stay hydrated on an adventure when beer is cheaper than water, and learn to bargain in Morocco so we can give you the deets on how it's done. So I wanted to finally get to the bottom of the rumor that more people are traveling.

Since 39% of the US population has a passport I wanted to know how that equated to actual travel numbers. After all, what good is a passport if you never use it? The only thing worse then not having a passport is not using the one you have. I think the data will surprise you; it surprised me.

Method:

  • I began by collecting information about the total U.S. Population and the total number of yearly outbound U.S. travelers from years 2000-2017
  • But wait...I quickly discovered that what I wanted was overseas travel only. I don't care about the people that went to Mexico and Canada, because in my book that doesn't count as traveling.
  • I then separated the data between just overseas travelers and just Mexico and Canada Air Travelers.
  • My goal was three things: 1) Find out how many people actually travel outside of North America 2) Find out how travel to Mexico and Canada affect travel stats 3) Discover the actual growth rate of travelers over the last 17 years

Yearly Number of Overseas Travelers

In 2017 there were 38,327,458 overseas U.S. Travelers. There were also 14,626,543 travelers that didn't traveled to Mexico or Canada.

 

  • In the past 17 years the total number of overseas visits peaked in 2017 at 38.32 million
  • The lowest year for number of travelers was in 2002 when only 23.4 million visits were taken overseas
  • There has not been a distinguishable and regular increase in the number of overseas visits in the past 17 years
  • Yearly visits have fluctuated from -7.3% to 11.9% from 2000-2017

Yearly Number of Mexico and Canada Air Travelers

Why just air travelers? Data from the early 2000's only recorded air travel, and I wanted data to remain consistent for all years. Also, air travel is an indicator of the larger picture so we can still get an estimate and see a trend regarding international travel. But, to be honest, in many instances Mexican and Canada Travel doubles and even triples when you factor in total travel. So, the numbers and graphs below are very conservative compared to actual figures.

  • Mexico and Canada has followed a similar curve as overseas travel in the past 17 years, but every year more people visit Mexico than Canada
  • The highest year was 2017 with 14.62 million travelers
  • The lowest year for number of travelers was in 2002 when only 7.97 million visits were taken to Mexico and Canada
  • Yearly visits have fluctuated from -9.8% to 15.7% over the past 17 years

Percent Change in Travelers

  • Factoring in Mexico/Canada visits boosts the percent of Americans who travel by 3% on average
  • On average, 9.4% of people travel overseas
  • Not until 2015 did at least 10% of the U.S. Population travel.
  • In 2017, 11.8% of U.S. citizens traveled. That is the highest percent ever.
  • In the past 15 years percent of overseas travel has fluctuated from 8.1% to 11.8%, averaging 9% a year

My Thoughts:

  • In the past 15 years overseas travel has not seen any growth.
  • Adding in travel numbers for Mexico and Canada skew the percents and inflate the total number of travelers (traveler= someone who crosses an ocean)
  • DON'T BE FOOLED BY SOURCES THAT SAY MORE PEOPLE ARE TRAVELING TODAY THAN EVER BEFORE. IN ACTUALITY, MORE PEOPLE THAN EVER ARE GOING TO CANADA AND MEXICO. IN 2015 OVER 1/3 OF PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL WENT TO EITHER CANADA OR MEXICO.
  • In the past 7 years, at least 30% of the population has had a passport, but 10% or less of that 30% to 38% have used it
    • In 2007 and earlier less than 30% of the population held passports, but the percent of overseas visits were about the same
Conclusion:
Since 2007 the number of passport holders has increased 12%. During that same period the percent of travelers has decreased by .7% (this disproportion is even greater when you look at these same numbers from 2000-2016)
Food for Thought:
Why do you think, that despite being one of the most prosperous countries in the world, more people aren't traveling overseas? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below
About the Author

Hank Martin

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Traveling for a world education and writing about the life lessons learned.

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