Landmarks of New York City, USA (Photo via spyarm / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Travel to and within the United States posted its worst performance in nine months in June.

The newly released Travel Trends Index (TTI) from the U.S. Travel Association reveals an 0.8 percent contraction of international inbound travel, bringing the sector’s six-month trend below zero for the first time since September 2015.

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The Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive component of the TTI, projects international inbound travel growth will continue to remain just below zero over the next six months, settling around -0.2 percent.

The slowdown in arrivals is consistent with a forecast released by the U.S. Travel Association last week, which estimated that America’s share of the global long-haul travel market will fall from its current 11.7 percent to below 10.9 percent by 2022.

The declining figures come on the heels of news last week that travel employment took a steep nosedive in July, shedding 2,500 jobs.

U.S. Travel economists suggest the drop in visitors is linked to the continued strength of the U.S. dollar, prolonged and rising trade tensions, and stiff competition from rivals for tourism business.

Policy moves that might help reverse this troubling trend include the long-term reauthorization of the United States’ destination marketing organization Brand USA.

In addition, the U.S. Travel Association said in a statement that expanding the Visa Waiver Program, and improving wait times for U.S. visa interviews as well as upon entry at U.S. Customs, could help ease the decline in visitors.

“While some factors cannot be controlled, the continued promotion of the U.S. in the competitive global travel market is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Travel Vice President of Research David Huether. “Brand USA’s global efforts have prevented the decline in international inbound travel from being worse, and it is imperative that Congress works quickly to pass legislation to ensure the program’s reauthorization.”

According to the index, domestic business travel is struggling as well. It declined 0.2 percent after showing positive signs in May.

“Cooling business investment and ongoing trade conflicts weighed on domestic business travel and will continue to do so through the rest of 2019,” said the statement from the U.S. Travel Association.

The only bright spot in the TTI was the strength of domestic leisure travel, which expanded 3.8 percent —on par with that segment’s six-month trend.

The LTI projects overall U.S. travel volume will grow 1.8 percent through December, while domestic travel overall will grow 2.0 percent.

The index is prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by the research firm Oxford Economics.