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TI News: An information service from the National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO)

June 1, 2015

2014 Overseas Visitation Estimates Released
Including Characteristics of Travelers to U.S. States and Cities

Leisure Travel and Visiting Friends/Relatives Lead the Growth in Travel from Overseas to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the results of its 2014 Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT). The SIAT is a primary research program, launched in 1983, that estimates overseas visitor volumes to destinations (states and cities) and provides traveler characteristics of those visitors from overseas and Mexico (air) to the United States and its destinations.

On March 10th Commerce reported that a record 74.8 million international visitors traveled to the United States in 2014, up seven percent. Travel volume from overseas regions totaled 34.4 million and was also up seven percent compared to 2013. An analysis of the arrivals information can be found at https://travel.trade.gov/tinews/archive/tinews2015/20150310.html

Destinations Visited:

Top States/Territories Visited by Overseas Travelers in 2014:

New York State was the most visited state by overseas travelers in 2014. It has been the most visited state for 14 consecutive years. Visitation to the state (9.98 million) increased by two percent. However, its share of all overseas travelers slipped from 30.6 percent to 29.0. Florida remained in second position, with an 18 percent increase in visitation, bringing it to 8.5 million, a record for overseas travel to the state. Florida has held the number two spot six times since 2001 and was tied for first in 2001 and 2003. California visitation (7.2 million) increased 11 percent from 2013 helping it to maintain third position. The state has held the number two position six times since 2003.

Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Guam and New Jersey tying with Pennsylvania rounded out the top ‘10’ states/territories visited. Of the 23 states/territories for which estimates are available, double-digit increases were experienced by 10 states. Georgia and Washington posted the highest growth rates at 22 and 21 percent, respectively. Overseas visitation records were also set by New York, Florida, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Washington, Utah and Virginia between 1997 -2014.

Top Cities Visited by Overseas Travelers in 2014:

The cities most visited by overseas travelers in 2014 were New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago. Of the 23 city visitation estimates issued, 15 posted increases, 11 of which were double-digit increases. The largest visitation increases were experienced by Atlanta (25 percent) and San Diego (24 percent). In rank order, New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Diego, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Seattle and the Florida Keys all set overseas visitation records between 1997 - 2014. See below(1), regarding ports of entry and cities ‘visited’.

To view the top states and cities visited by overseas travelers, please go to: https://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/2014_States_and_Cities.pdf

Traveler Characteristics:

The increase in travel, measured by all trip purposes, was driven by leisure (vacation) and visiting friends and relatives (VFR). Business travel to the U.S. was up, but convention travel was flat. The average number of states and destinations visited increased. The average length of stay increased as did travel party size. The share of tour packages declined and first time travelers grew slightly. The use of intercity transportation modes declined, but the use of auto and cruises (one plus nights) increased.

Trip Purposes:

  • Leisure Travel (Vacation/Holiday for all purposes of trip), estimated at a record 23.5 million travelers in 2014, increased 10 percent from 2013. Countries that produced increases in leisure travel included the U.K., Brazil, Germany, France, Australia, China and South Korea. Most of the top U.S. destinations experienced growth in leisure travelers, with Florida and California at double digits. Florida and California both set records in 2014 for the most travelers visiting the state for a vacation.
  • Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) estimated at 10.4 million travelers was up 13 percent from 2013.
  • Business travel, estimated at 5.2 million, increased five percent in 2014. Business travel to the United States was up from Asia, except for Japan. New York and California remain the big business markets; however there was growth in business travel to Florida and Massachusetts.
  • Convention travel, estimated at 3.0 million travelers, was flat when compared to 2013 traveler volume.

Other Key Traveler Characteristics:

  • The average number of states visited in 2014 increased from 1.4 to 1.5 and the percentage of travelers visiting only one state increased to a 73 percent share of total visitors, up slightly in 2014. The average number of destinations visited increased from 1.9 to 2.0 and the percent of travelers visiting only one destination dropped two percentage points to 54 percent.
  • The length of stay in the United States averaged 18.4 nights, up from 17.5 nights in 2013. Several of the top overseas arrival markets showed increases in the length of visit, i.e. the U.K, Japan, China, Germany, Korea and Italy among the top 10 overseas arrivals markets.
  • The travel party size increased from 1.6 to 1.7. For Asian and European travelers, however, the average party size held constant year over year.
  • The usage of a ‘conventional’ tour package (including at minimum both air and lodging), estimated at 5.9 million, increased slightly in 2014. The share of all travelers using a package declined to 17.1 percent from 18.1 percent in 2013. The use of tour packages declined in the Asian markets. Consequently, the number of independent travelers increased in 2013.
  • First time travelers to the United States, as a share of all travelers, increased slightly from 23.7 in 2013 to 23.8 percent in 2014. Repeat travelers, consequently decreased slightly as a share but increased seven percent. ‘Repeat’ visitors characteristically venture beyond the top destinations.
  • Transportation usage in United States increased for each of the modes tracked except air travel between U.S. cities. Cruise, Ship/River Boat, for one or more nights, increased 18 percent. Auto usage, both rental and private/company, increased by double digits.

NTTO 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 2014. Also, overseas market profiles and ‘Key Facts’ about International Travel to the United States were also posted. Changes in visitation estimates, reported previously, will be substantiated in these profiles. To view these reports, please go to: https://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/inbound.general_information.inbound_overview.html

In addition to the aggregate level data available on the website, NTTO also offers detailed ‘national’ and country reports and custom reports based on subscriber requirements. For information on the SIAT research program, please go to: https://travel.trade.gov/research/programs/ifs/index.html

Administrative Notes:

In 2014 NTTO collected 46,231 non-resident (overseas inbound) SIAT responses, up 18 percent from 2013. The continuation and enhancement of the supplemental survey collections at 13 gateway airports serves to improve the overall selection process and the ability to select respondents in a statistically rigorous method. In addition, NTTO partners survey passengers on over 80 international airlines which serve all world regions from the United States.

'(1) Analysis of Ports of Entry and Cities/States Visited

In 2014, most of the top 15 ports of entry experienced increases in overseas volume; however, not all of the ‘host’ cities necessarily reflected the same growth in visitation. For example, in 2014, comparing Atlanta and Chicago:

Overseas visitor arrivals at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL) (1.61 million) were down two percent from 2013. However, the number of arrivals via ATL who also visited the city of Atlanta/MSA was up seven percent. In addition, an increasing number of arrivals from most other U.S. ports of entry indicated visitation to Atlanta. Consequently, overall visitation to the city/MSA of Atlanta increased 25 percent.

Overseas visitor arrivals at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) (1.496 million) were up three percent from 2013. However, the number of arrivals, via ORD, who also visited the city of Chicago/MSA, were down four percent. In addition, a decreasing number of arrivals from many other U.S. ports of entry indicated visitation to Chicago. Consequently, overall visitation to the city/MSA of Chicago decreased five percent.

An analysis of changes in other visitor characteristics (purpose of trip, first time/repeat, package travel and trip party size) can help to pinpoint reasons for visitation changes.