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TI News: An information service from Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI)

August 08, 2007

U.S. Sets New Records for Travel Abroad in 2006

The U.S. outbound market grew by less than one percent in 2006 compared to annual 2005 figures, enabling it to post the third successive record for total U.S. outbound travel. In 2006, 63.7 million U.S. residents traveled abroad, surpassing the 2005 record of 63.5 million. The growth came entirely in travel to the overseas regions, 30.1 million, up five percent. Travel to Mexico and Canada declined by four percent three percent, respectively.

Spending by U.S. residents traveling abroad also set the third successive record in 2006 at $99.5 billion, up five percent from 2005. Spending by U.S. travelers within foreign countries (Travel Payments) totaled $72.0 billion and spending on air transportation, via foreign air carriers (Passenger Fare Payments), totaled $27.5 billion in 2006.

The top five countries where U.S. spent their 2006 travel dollars were: Mexico ($10.9 billion), United Kingdom ($10.5 billion), Canada ($7.7 billion), Germany ($5.2 billion) and France ($5.0 billion).

The Top Outbound Destination Markets:

Mexico was the top U.S. international destination again in 2006 with 19.7 million travelers, even though travel was down three percent from 2005. 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 $10.9.2 billion, up one percent from 2005 and setting a new record set in 2001. Mexico surpassed the U.K. to become the top international market for U.S. spending.

Canada continues to be the second largest destination for U.S. international travelers. In 2006, 13.9 million U.S. travelers visited our northern neighbor, albeit four percent down from 2005. Although Canada generally has been a growth market over the last decade non-resident arrivals from Canada exceeded U.S. travelers to Canada again in 2006, for the second time since 1997. The peak year for U.S. travel to Canada was in 2002 with 16.2 million U.S. outbound travelers. However, spending by U.S. travelers to Canada in 2006 totaled $7.7 billion, up two percent from 2005. The increase in 2006 sets a new record for U.S. travel spending in Canada, surpassing the old record from 2004.

In 2006, a record 30.1 million U.S. travelers visited overseas markets, an increase of five percent from 2005. The top five overseas markets visited by U.S. travelers in 2006 were: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Jamaica. China (if combining travel the PRC and Hong Kong) would have tied as second. Destinations that experienced the highest growth in U.S. visitation between 2005 and 2006 were Jamaica, up 25 percent, Ireland and Switzerland, both up 22 percent, India and Italy, both up eight percent, and the Netherlands and Taiwan, both up five percent.

Contributing to the new record for outbound travel, seven of the top 20 U.S. outbound destination markets posted records in 2006, including Japan, China (PRC) and India. Also, All Overseas, Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Africa set regional records for U.S. outbound visits between 1985 and 2006.

Profile 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 data tables available on the U.S. outbound traveler that can assist the industry to understand these travelers.

Select highlights, comparing 2006 to 2005:

  • The top cities of origin for U.S. travel to overseas destinations in 2006 were: New York City/Nassau, NY; Washington DC Metro; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL, Chicago, IL and San Francisco, CA.
  • he top ports of departures for U.S. citizens were New York (JFK), Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago (ORD), and Newark, unchanged from 2005.
  • Advance trip decision time declined from an average of 92 to 90 days and airline reservation times remained unchanged at 58 days prior to departure.
  • The Internet continues to grow in importance as a source of information for international trip planning, moving slightly ahead of travel agents for the first time. However travel agents continue to be the primary means of booking the trip (39 percent vs. 29 percent for travel agents.)
  • Pre-paid packages increased to almost 15 percent of overseas travelers in 2006.
  • The main purpose of the overseas trip was leisure/recreation/holiday for 42 percent of the travelers, up from 40 percent. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) was the second highest main purpose of trip at 31 percent. Business travel comprised 21 percent of outbound travel, unchanged from 2005.
  • The average length of trip outside the USA remained virtually the same, at 16.2 nights in 2006 compared to16.4 nights in 2005.
  • Six percent of travelers were on their first international trip, slightly up from 2005, and the average number of international trips taken by U.S. travelers in the last 12 months was 2.8 about the same as in 2005.
  • Top activities for U.S. travelers other than dining in restaurants and shopping were: visiting historical places, visiting small towns and villages, sightseeing in cities, touring the countryside and visiting cultural heritage sites.
  • Average international airfares were $1,549, up nine percent from 2005, and average trip expenditures (travel payments) per visitor while overseas were $1,418, up almost six percent from 2005.
  • More males traveled abroad than females, however, there was a higher proportionate growth in the number of women travelers in 2006. The average ages of males and females were 46.7 and 44.2 years old, respectively, slightly older than in 2005. In general, there was growth in the 55 – 65+ year old segments.
  • Average household income was $115,600, up four percent from 2005.

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.

  • 2006 Profile of U.S. Resident Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations
  • Top Destinations Visited by U.S. Resident Travelers 2006-2005
  • Top 30+ Ports of Departure in 2006 for U.S. Citizens
  • Total International Travelers Volume to/from the U.S. 1996 – 2006
  • U.S. Resident Travel to Canada, Mexico and Overseas (Historical 1996 – 2006)
  • U.S. Travel and Tourism Balance of Trade (Receipts & Payments 1996 – 2006)
  • U.S. Travel and Tourism Balance of Trade (2006, 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