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September 04, 2013

2012 Overseas Visitation Estimates to U.S. States and Cities Released

Shifts in Key Traveler Characteristics Noted
(Leisure and Convention Travel Up; Business and VFR Travel Down)

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the results of its 2012 Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) program, which measures destinations (states and cities) visited and traveler characteristics of overseas visitors to the United States.

On June 10th Commerce released that 2012 overseas travel to the United States, based on DHS I-94 arrival data, increased by seven percent compared to 2011. Despite the overall increase in visitation to the United States, arrivals from Western Europe declined by two percent having a material impact on many of the top U.S. states and cities reported. Five of the top 15 overseas countries of origin posted declines in 2012 arrivals, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Only two countries declined in 2011, the United Kingdom and Japan. Of the states and cities being reported, 10 states and nine cities posted increases in 2012 while 10 states and 10 cities suffered declines in overseas visitation.

Traveler Characteristics:

Changes in traveler characteristics were reflected in the shifts in visitation patterns between 2011 and 2012. Shifts were noted in business and leisure travel, the number of states and destinations visited, length of stay, the percent of first time travelers and the traveler’s use of transportation within the country. Changes in traveler characteristics and origin country market changes had a cross-cutting effect on U.S. destinations. So, what changed?

  • Leisure travel (‘a purpose of trip’) estimated at almost 20 million travelers in 2012, increased six percent from 2011, setting a record. However, at the destination level, New York and California experienced significant declines in leisure travelers, whereas Hawaii and Florida witnessed record increases. Countries that produced increases in leisure travel were in South America and Asia. European leisure travel to the United States declined.

  • Visit Friends and Relatives (VFR) estimated at 8.5 million travelers was down six percent from 2011. As a purpose of trip, measured against all other trip purposes, VFR dropped four percentage points from 2011 and was at its lowest level in two decades.

  • Business travel, estimated at 4.7 million declined by 15 percent in 2012 and by four percentage points as a share of all travel.  Business travel to the United States. was down from most origin countries with the exception of Japan and Germany.

  • Convention travel, estimated at 3.0 million, increased by 63 percent and set a record in 2012.
  • The average number of states visited in 2012 dropped from 1.6 to 1.5. And the percentage of travelers visiting only one state increased to a record 70.5 percent share of total visitors. Florida, Hawaii and Guam experienced increases in visits by travelers who only visited one state. While the average number of destinations visited remained at 2.0, there was a slight increase in the number of travelers who visited only one destination.

  • The length of stay in the United States averaged 17 nights, down from the record 18.1 nights in 2011. Of the top 15 overseas arrival markets India, Colombia and South Korea had the highest decline in length of stay whereas the People’s Republic of China saw an increase in the length of their visits.

  • The usage of a ‘conventional’ tour package (including at a minimum both air and lodging), estimated at 5.7 million, increased by 26 percent in 2012. The share of all travelers using a package increased to 19 percent. The Asian market contributed to this increase as it increased from 28 to 35 percent in 2012.

  • First time travelers to the United States, estimated at 6.9 million, declined by 11 percent in 2012 and as a share of all travelers declined from 28 to 23 percent. This reflects an increase in ‘repeat’ visitors, generally indicative of travelers who would venture beyond the top destinations. However, the data show that even repeat visitors have visited fewer destinations and states in 2012, particularly for those visiting leisure and ‘sand and sea’ destinations.

  • Transportation used in United States increased for intercity travel by air and bus (both by 7 percentage points). Also, usage of company or private auto increased (8 percentage points). It is not readily known whether these modes were used as part of planned itineraries for travel to a main destination from the arrival port of entry or to a secondary destination. Given that the number of destinations visited was static (2.0, above) it could be inferred that transport was used for local travel and not generally used for travel to secondary destinations.

Destinations Visited:

New York State was the most visited state by overseas travelers in 2012. It held the most visited position for nine consecutive years since 2004. In the period from 2000 through 2003 it jumped from third to first (tied in 2001 and 2003 and first in 2002). However, in 2012, visitation to the state (9.3 million) declined by two percent. Its share of all overseas travelers slipped from 34.1 percent to 31.3 percent. Florida moved into second position, with a 16 percent increase in visitation, bringing it to 6.6 million, its own record for travel to the state. Florida held the number two spot five times since 2001 and was tied for first in 2001 and 2003. California visitation (6.0 million) declined two percent from 2011 bringing it into third position. The state held the number two position five times since 2004. Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois, Guam, Massachusetts, Texas and Pennsylvania rounded out the top 10 states/territories visited. Of the 22 states/territories for which estimates are available, double-digit increases were experienced by seven states. Hawaii and Ohio posted the highest growth rates at 24 and 28 percent. Visitation records were also set by Florida, Guam and Texas.

The cities most visited by overseas travelers in 2012 were New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston. Of the 22 city visitation estimates issued, only nine posted increases, eight of which were double-digit increases. The largest visitation increases were experienced by Anaheim (31 percent) and Honolulu/Oahu (25 percent). In 2012, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Houston, and San Diego all set records.

To view the top states and cities visited by overseas travelers, please visit: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/2012_States_and_Cities.pdf

Changes in a destination’s visitation estimate will vary due to changes in origin market ‘demand side factors,’ shifts in traveler characteristics and normal statistical variances. For the top three states visited the following will quantify the significant shifts in source markets from the top world regions:

  • Overseas visitation to New York State was down two percent in 2012. Travel from Europe to New York declined two percent to 4.9 million; travel from South America (1.3 million), down nine percent; and from Oceania (434,000), down six percent. Travel was up from Asia (1.5 million), up two percent; the Caribbean (479,000), up nine percent; and Central America, up eight percent. New York City dominated visitation to the state.

  • Visitation to Florida was up 16 percent. Travel to the state was up from South America (2.6 million), 48 percent, and Central America (301,000), up 35 percent. Travel from Europe (2.7 million) was flat, but down from the U.K. by four percent. Visitation was down from Asia (308,000) by four percent and the Caribbean (308,000) by 33 percent. Miami and Orlando were the two top destinations, up 18 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

  • California state visitation was down two percent. Travel to the state was down from Europe (2.4 million), down eight percent, Oceania (632,000), down seven percent, and down eight percent from Central America. Visitation from South America (367,000) was flat. Travel from Asia (2.2 million) was up eight percent. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Anaheim were the top cities visited. Travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco declined whereas San Diego and Anaheim both experienced increases.

OTTI has released 23 country and eight world regional profiles which reveal historical arrival trends, spending estimates (where appropriate) and shifts in traveler characteristics and destinations visited. In addition, five sector profiles (Leisure, Business, Hotel, Car Rental and Cultural Heritage travel) were updated for 2012. Also, an overseas market profile and a ‘Key Facts’ about International Travel to the United States is also posted. Changes in visitation estimates, reported previously, will be substantiated in these profiles.

To view these reports, please go to: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/outreachpages/inbound.general_information.inbound_overview.html

In 2012, two singular events contributed to our delay in releasing the data.

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) incurred substantial challenges in the conversion to an electronic I-94 arrivals system which caused a three month delay in receiving these data. OTTI released 2012 arrival data on June 10, 2013. Last year, OTTI released the annual arrivals data on March 7, 2012.
    (The SIAT program requires input from the DHS I-94 system in order to properly ‘weight’ the sample survey data to the census (100%) of all overseas arrivals from country of origin and U.S. port of entry.)

  • OTTI fielded a new questionnaire in 2012, the first one since 1996. This required new program testing, creating new report formats and merging of the two data sets (2012 with 2011 and prior) into the weighted data. While the new questionnaire provides the government and industry with new insights into the inbound market the core questions for this program remain unchanged.

In 2012 OTTI collected 41,857 survey responses, up nine percent from 2011. This was also the largest number of responses collected since 1999 and the largest single year increase in sample since 2007. Contributing to the increase was the continuation of the supplemental survey collections at 12 gateway airports. This works to improve the overall selection process and enhances our ability to select respondents in a statistical rigorous method.

In addition to the aggregate level data available on the website, OTTI also offers detailed ‘national’ and country reports and custom reports based on subscriber requirements. For information on the research programs, please go to: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/research/programs/ifs/index.html


U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI), 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Mail Stop 10003, Washington, DC 20230; Phone:(202) 482-0140; Fax: (202) 482-2887; Website: www.tinet.ita.doc.gov; Email: OTTI@trade.gov