The United States International Travel Industry
Key Facts About Inbound Tourism

July 2001

  • The travel and tourism industry produced over $582 billion in revenues for the economy, supporting over 18 million jobs (direct and indirect) and $92 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

  • International visitors rose to 50.9 million in 2000, exceeding last year's record by 5 percent.

  • The strong turnout of international visitors coincided with strengthening economies in Asia and South America and steady growth throughout Europe, Canada and Mexico. More than half of last year's arrivals were overseas travelers (from countries other than Mexico and Canada). European visitors made up nearly half of this group, with Asians coming in next at almost 30 percent, and Latin Americans not far behind at 20 percent.

  • Visitors from the United Kingdom exceeded forecasts for 2000 with 4.7 million arrivals, an 11 percent increase over 1999. The boom in British arrivals offset declines among some western European visitors from countries such as Germany and Italy, who were affected by depreciating currencies against the U.S. dollar, particularly during the second half of the year.

  • Japanese travelers comprised more than two-thirds of all Asian arrivals for 2000. They maintained their lead position among overseas visitors, nearly recouping to their 1997 level, with over 5 million arrivals. South Korea moved up four positions to become the sixth-top overseas source of U.S. travelers, with double-digit growth (33 percent) in 2000 to 662,000 visitors.

  • Nearly 3 million South American tourists made the United States their destination in 2000, an increase of almost 8 percent that grazed the record high of 1998. The increased volume of visitors occurred as Brazil's economy saw an upward turn. Venezuelan travelers continued their growth trend since 1996, with 4 percent more arrivals in 2000 than the previous year.

  • For the first time since 1993, Australia made the top ten list for visitors to the United States, surpassing its 1997 record of half of a million visitors. Despite hosting the Olympics in 2000, Australian tourism to the United States grew by nearly 12 percent.

    • The balance of the visitors to the United States came from our neighbors to the north and south. Arrivals from North America reached nearly 25 million. Canadian tourism in the United States increased 3 percent, the second consecutive rise after a two-year slump in the mid 1990's, with more than 14.5 million visitors. Mexican arrivals have been increasing since 1997, and at 10.3 million, the year 2000 was no exception.

    • According to the World Tourism Organization, on May 2001, the United States ranked second behind France and just ahead of Spain for World arrivals in 2000,

  • In terms of travel receipts/exports, the U.S. ranks first among world-wide destinations. The United States' share of world travel receipts was 18 percent in 2000. Spending by international travelers to the United States is more than double the level for any other country.

  • Total U.S. international travel receipts, including international fare payments by non-resident tourists to U.S. carriers, reached $102.8 billion in 2000, up 9 perecent from the previous year.

  • While Canada and Mexico ranked first and second in terms of arrivals for 2000, Japan ranked first in receipts (14 percent of total receipts for the U.S.), ahead of Canada (8 percent) and Mexico (5 percent).

  • International travel is one of the largest exports for the United States, ranking ahead of agricultural goods, consumer goods, and motor vehicles. It is the second largest service export category, and accounts for 37 percent of all service exports.

  • The United States has continued to produce a travel surplus, generating $14 billion in 2000. The surplus has been produced continuously since 1989, peaking at $26.3 billion in 1996. A surplus occurs when international visitors to the country spend more than U.S. residents who travel abroad.

    • Travel and tourism is America's fourth largest export category, and the Tourism Industries' forecast shows continual growth in international travel to the U.S. from 2001 through 2004. Last year, 50.9 million international visitors contributed $103 billion in revenues to the U.S. economy. In three years, the number of international visitors to the U.S. is expected to grow to 60.9 million - a 20 percent increase from 2000.

    • Continual economic growth in Europe and Asia are key to long-term growth in U.S. visitor arrivals in the new millennium. Europe is projected to see its eighth straight year of increased visitation to America, maintaining their role as the top generating overseas region.

    • Visitors from Europe are expected to surpass 13 million by 2004, an increase of 19 percent over 2000.

    • Asian visitors are forecasted to almost reach 9.3 million by 2004, or a 23% growth over the 2000 arrivals total, primarily due to Japanese and South Korean growths in forecasted

    • During that same period, visitors from South America are projected to outpace the overall growth with 22 percent to reach 3.6 million.

  • Expenditures by international visitors from other nations in 2000 directly supported 1.1 million jobs in the United States. Payroll revenues generated by international tourism were estimated at over $22 billion, and Federal, State and local taxes were estimated at over $11 billion in 2000.

  • On a per capita basis, overseas visitors (which excludes Canada and Mexico) spent about six times as much as their domestic U.S. counterparts for travel in this country in 2000.

  • In 2000 the average overseas visitor's length of stay in this country was just below 16 nights, almost five times as long as the average domestic trip.

  • The top states visited by overseas travelers in 2000 were: California, Florida, New
    York, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, territory of Guam, Texas and New Jersey.

  • Favorite destinations for overseas travelers in 2000 were: New York City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Washington DC, Chicago, and Boston.

  • Top Activities of overseas travelers in 2000 were: Shopping (87 percent), Dining in restaurants (84 percent), Sightseeing in cities (43 percent), Amusement/theme parks (31 percent), Visit historical places (31 percent), Visit small towns/villages (28 percent), Water sports/sunbathing (23 percent), Touring the countryside (21 percent), Visit National Parks (20 percent), Visit art galleries/museums (20 percent), and cultural heritage sites (18 percent).

  • Overseas travelers to the United States are very mobile. On average, in 2000, they visited over 2 destinations. They also took taxis (41 percent), rented cars (33 percent), took a domestic flight (29 percent), used company or private automobile (26 percent), used the city subway/bus (20 percent), took a bus between cities (10 percent), and used rail to see the country (9 percent).

  • Overseas travelers are far more inclined to stay at hotel/motels (81 percent) than do domestic travelers. In 2000 the average number of nights in a hotel/motel was 7.6. Spending on all lodging was the number one expense item for overseas travelers while in the country.

  • There were far more independent overseas travelers (79 percent) visiting the United States than visitors using a travel package (21 percent). Of the package travelers, the most frequent combination of components in the package were air and lodging.

  • Overseas travelers to the country were predominantly repeat visitors (78 percent), with one in five (22 percent) being first time visitors.

Note: International travelers includes all non-U.S. residents who visit the country.
Overseas excludes Canada and Mexico.

For more information on the international travel market to the United States, please visit the Tourism Industries web site at:

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, Tourism Industries & Bureau of Economic Analysis, July 2001