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Commerce Dept. Predicts Continuing Growth in U.S. Tourism

Destination & Tourism | U.S. Travel Association | James Ruggia | April 23, 2012

Commerce Dept. Predicts Continuing Growth in U.S. Tourism

According to U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson, the United States can expect a 4 to 5 percent average annual growth in tourism over the next five years, and that 65.4 million foreign travelers are projected to visit the United States in 2012. The Spring 2012 Travel and Tourism Forecast, released semi-annually by the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), predicts continued strong growth through 2016 following two consecutive visitor volume records set in 2010 and 2011.

Bryson unveiled the new forecast at the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow annual event in Los Angeles, which draws more than 5,000 people from 70 countries from the travel and tourism industry. “Growth in travel and tourism -- which impacts nearly every state and community across America -- will help support millions of American jobs and achieve the president’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014,” he said. “Today’s forecast is a positive sign that the travel and tourism industry -- our No. 1 services export -- is growing stronger. We will remain focused on making the U.S even more welcoming to visitors, and our message to the world is clear: the United States is open for business.”

The Commerce Department’s ITA also launched a new web-based tool to provide the travel and tourism industry, as well as foreign visitors, with information and statistics from the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and State. In addition to providing basic information like travel tips, the resource contains a set of 15 regularly updated graphs on visa wait times, international arrivals processing times and airline capacity in key markets. This online travel resource follows President Obama’s January 2012 executive order calling for the government to make it easier for tourists to find basic information about visiting America.

“Travel and tourism has been producing a trade surplus every year for more than two decades,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez. “Without the continued strength of America’s tourism industry, we wouldn’t have seen the strong export growth of the last year.”

Tourists from all world regions are forecast to grow over the five-year period, ranging from a low for the Caribbean (up 9 percent), to a high for Asia (up 49 percent), South America (up 47 percent), and Africa (up 47 percent). All but three of the top-40 visitor origin countries are forecast to grow from 2011 through 2016. Countries with the largest total growth percentages are China (up 198 percent), Brazil (up 70 percent), Argentina (up 46 percent), Australia (up 45 percent), Korea (up 35 percent), and Venezuela (up 35 percent). The North America world region is forecast to account for the largest proportion of the total visitor growth of 14 million visitors (42 percent). Asia (25 percent), Western Europe (11 percent), and South America (13 percent) are expected to account for the bulk of the remaining 58 percent of total growth in visitor volume forecast in 2016 compared to 2011 actual volume.

The Commerce Department recently released data showing that 62 million international visitors traveled to the U.S. in 2011, generating a record $153 billion in receipts and a $43 billion trade surplus. International and domestic tourism spending increased 8.1 percent, supporting an additional 103,000 jobs for a total of 7.6 million Americans employed in travel and tourism industries or in industries that support them. Further, 1.2 million jobs are supported directly by international traveler spending within the United States and on U.S. carriers.

While in Los Angeles, Bryson and Sánchez met with the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to discuss strategies for increasing travel to the United States. The Board advises the secretary on policies and programs that affect the U.S. travel and tourism industry. In January, Obama announced several initiatives to increase travel and tourism in the U.S. and created a Task Force for Travel and Competitiveness. In the announcement, Bryson and Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar were charged with developing recommendations for a National Tourism and Travel Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the U.S., thereby supporting job creation in this vital industry.

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