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September 6, 2006

U.S. Sets New Records for Travel Abroad in 2005

The U.S. outbound market grew by three percent in 2005 when compared to annual 2004 figures to post a new record for total U.S. outbound travel. In 2005, 63.5 million U.S. travelers went abroad, surpassing the 2004 record of 61.8 million. The growth came in travel to the overseas regions, up five percent, and to Mexico, also up five percent. U.S. travel to overseas countries increased to 28.8 million, a new record. Travel to Canada declined almost five percent.

Spending by U.S. travelers going abroad also set a new record in 2005 at $95.2 billion, up by six percent compared to 2004. Spending by U.S. travelers in countries outside the United States totaled $69.2 billion, and the money spent on air transportation, via foreign air carriers, totaled $26.1 billion in 2005.

The top five countries for U.S. spending in 2005 were: United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Germany and France, respectively.

The Top Outbound Destination Markets:

Mexico was the top U.S. international destination in 2005 with 20.33 million travelers, up five percent from 2004 just breaking the previous peak of 20.30 million in 1996. Travel to Mexico has fluctuated over the last 10 years. The strongest growth periods were in 1995, up 20 percent, in 2000, up 10 percent and 2004, also up 10 percent.

Spending by U.S. travelers to Mexico totaled $11.2 billion, up 10 percent from 2004.

Canada continues to be the second largest destination for U.S. international travelers. In 2005, 14.4 million U.S. travelers visited our northern neighbor, albeit five percent down from 2004. Although Canada generally has been a growth market over the last decade non-resident arrivals from Canada exceeded U.S. travelers to Canada in 2005, for the first time since 1998. The peak year for U.S. travel to Canada was in 2002 with 16.2 million U.S. outbound travelers.

Spending by U.S. travelers to Canada in 2005 totaled $7.4 billion, down five percent from 2004.

In 2005, a record 28.8 million U.S. travelers visited overseas markets, an increase of five percent from 2004.

The top five overseas markets visited by U.S. travelers in 2005 were: the United Kingdom, France, China (combined total for the PRC and Hong Kong), Italy and Germany. Destinations that experienced the highest growth in U.S. visitation between 2004 and 2005 were the Dominican Republic, up 50 percent, Japan, up 40 percent, India, up 33 percent, Hong Kong, up 25 percent, Costa Rica, up 24 percent and the People’s Republic of China, up 21 percent.

Contributing to the new record for outbound travel, seven of the top 25 U.S. outbound destination markets posted records in 2005, including Japan, Dominican Republic, China (PRC), India, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Thailand. Also, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, set regional records for U.S. outbound visits between 1985 and 2005.

Profiles of the U.S. Overseas Traveler:
The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries also released a profile of the U.S. travelers who visited overseas destinations (excluding Canada and Mexico). The profile provides key information on the travel patterns, traveler characteristics and spending by U.S. travelers going abroad. In addition to providing an overall profile, a further breakdown is provided for leisure/VFR travelers and those traveling on a business/convention trip. There are 32 different pieces of information available on the U.S. outbound traveler that can assist the industry in understanding these travelers.

Select highlights, comparing 2005 to 2004:

  • The top cities of origin for U.S. travel to overseas destinations in 2005 were: New York City/Nassau, NY; Washington, DC; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA and Chicago, IL.
  • The top ports of departures for U.S. citizens were New York (JFK), Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Newark, unchanged from 2004.
  • Advance trip decision time increased from an average of 86 to 92 days and airline reservation times moved up from 55 to 58 days.
  • The Internet continues to grow in importance as a source of information and for booking international airline reservations, although travel agents continue to be the primary source.
  • Pre-paid packages held at 13 percent of overseas travelers in 2005.
  • The main purpose of the overseas trip was leisure/recreation/holiday for 40 percent of the travelers, up from 38 percent. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) was the second highest main purpose of trip at 32 percent. Business travel comprised 21 percent of outbound travel, down slightly.
  • The average length of trip outside the USA remained virtually the same, at 16.4 nights in 2005 compared to16.2 nights in 2004.
  • Six percent of travelers were on their first international trip, down from 11 percent, and the average number of international trips taken by U.S. travelers in the last 12 months was 2.7 about the same as in 2004.
  • Top activities for U.S. travelers were: dining in restaurants, shopping, visiting historical places, visiting small towns and villages, and sightseeing in cities.
  • Average international airfare was $1,424, up one percent from 2004, and the average trip expenditure per visitor outside the U.S. was $1,344, up two percent from 2004.
  • More males traveled abroad than females. The average ages of males and females were 46 and 44 years old, respectively.
  • Average household income was $111,600, up one percent from 2004.

Detailed Information
The Office of Travel & Tourism Industries would like to direct you to the Outbound Overview page, which contains links to in-depth information on the Outbound market. https://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/outbound.general_information.outbound_overview.html

  • 2005 Profile of U.S. Resident Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations
  • Select Destinations Visited by U.S. Resident Travelers 2005-2004
  • Top 30 Ports of Departure in 2005 for U.S. Citizens
  • Total International Travelers Volume to/from the U.S. 1995 – 2005
  • U.S. Resident Travel to Canada, Mexico and Overseas (Historical 1995 – 2005)
  • U.S. Travel and Tourism Balance of Trade (Receipts & Payments 1995 – 2005)
  • U.S. Travel and Tourism Balance of Trade (2005, by Country)

In addition to the data available for free on the web site, parties interested in purchasing detailed standardized reports and/or customized data can do so by visiting the OTTI web site.

OTTI also posts monthly international non-stop air traffic figures. While air traffic is not the same as ‘visitation’, it does provide an indication of air traffic flows for U.S. citizen outbound travel. To see the monthly outbound data go to: https://travel.trade.gov/research/monthly/departures/index.html

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Travel and Tourism Industries
14th & Constitution Avenue NW, Room 1003
Washington, D.C. 20230
Phone:(202) 482-0140
Fax: (202) 482-2887
Email: Otti@trade.gov

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