U.S. draws fewer visitors than in 2000: USTA

Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:15am EST
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By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Despite a boom in international travel over the past decade, the United States still attracts fewer visitors than it did in 2000, according to new data from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA).

Figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show a ten percent rise in foreign visitors during the first 11 months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

But the USTA, which works to promote the travel industry, said the numbers mean that the U.S. drew fewer overseas visitors than in 2000 for the tenth consecutive year.

"They are putting out the numbers as a positive highlight," Geoff Freeman, the president of USTA, told Reuters. "but it's more important to dig deeper into the numbers and look at trends."

In 2000, Commerce Department figures showed that 25,974,700 visitors arrived in the U.S. from overseas, compared to 25,715,300 in 2010 - one percent less, according to the association.

During the same period, according to data from Oxford Economics, world long haul arrivals increased from 151,371,900 to 210,815,000 -- a 39.3 percent rise, it added.

The travel industry values overseas visitors because they spend an average of $4,000 each per trip, compared to $900 for Canadian and Mexican visitors, according to USTA. The numbers are based on the relationship between the total spending of overseas travelers while in the U.S. and the number of overseas arrivals to the U.S.

The USTA said that fewer visitors from abroad, despite an increase in international travel, means that foreign tourists are choosing other countries to visit.   Continued...