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Date: Wed, 6 Aug 2003
From: TInews Announcement <announce@tinet.ita.doc.gov>
To: TInews Announcement <tiannounce@tinet.ita.doc.gov>

May 2003 International Arrivals Data - SARS Impact

=== TINEWS ===================================

An information service from Office of Travel & Tourism Industries
U.S. International Trade Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce


May 2003 International Arrivals Data - SARS Impact

Contact: Office of Travel and Tourism Industries
E-mail: otti@trade.gov
Web: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov
Phone: (202) 482-0140, Fax: (202) 482-2887

Hard hit by a sluggish global economy, the Iraqi War, SARS, and airline strife, international arrivals to the U.S. contracted from all world regions in May 2003 and year-to-date. The U.S. faced several challenges through the first five months of 2003. The Iraqi War began in mid-March and effectively ended in mid-to-late April, although considerable concern of war loomed throughout the first quarter. Just as the war in Iraq was winding down, new concerns for travel arose. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a respiratory illness with pneumonia-like symptoms quickly took over the headlines and further curtailed travel and travel planning, especially from Asian markets. Lingering concerns about sluggish economies and the ongoing war on terrorism also combined to contribute to the overall drop in arrivals to the U.S. for May 2003.

  • International travel to the U.S. in May 2003 (total overseas, Canada, and Mexico) contracted 12 percent to 2.6 million arrivals, compared to 3.0 million arrivals reported for May 2002.

  • Asian arrivals to the U.S. contracted 35 percent in May, compared to May 2002 arrivals, which was on the heels of a 39 percent decline registered in April 2003. Japan registered the largest drop in arrivals in May (for the top 15 markets) a 38 percent decline to 178,809 arrivals, compared to May 2002.

  • Although not as severe as Japan, arrivals from South Korea registered a 4 percent decline in May, with 51,088 arrivals. Australian arrivals also registered a contraction in May, down 3 percent to 37,381 arrivals.

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the following countries suffered the worst exposure to the SARS outbreak: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Canada. Each of these markets registered a severe drop in travel to the U.S. in April and May 2003. The impact of SARS is evident. However, each of these markets also registered declines in March and most registered declines in February as well, indicating that the drop in arrivals is a combination of economic, political, and SARS-related concerns that dissuaded travelers.
2003 Arrivals   Percent Change 2003/2002
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May   Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May
ASIA 437,550 387,205 359,449 251,346 326,143   6.6% -2.2% -22.9% -39.1% -35.1%
CHINA, PRC 18,005 13,129 10,760 7,035 326,143   -8.9% -13.6%  -31.3% -60.6% -69.4%
TAIWAN 29,945 16,304 14,003 9,451 6,441   9.0% -23.8%  -24.3% -46.8% -62.2%
HONG KONG 13,705  7,881 6,588 4,443 10,191   17.9% -31.4%  -33.5% -46.3% -53.0%
SINGAPORE 7,546  5,313 5,271 2,715 5,588   4.3% -2.6%  -18.7% -61.2% -49.1%
CANADA 863,767 770,967 1,144,466 980,655 1,005,147   4.8% 1.7%  -5.7% -11.1% -8.7%

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, July 2003
  • The impact on visitor arrivals from SARS was not registered in every top market in May. Arrivals from the United Kingdom increased 5 percent to 315,473 in May 2003, compared to May 2002. This marked the second month in a row UK arrivals increased, which contributed to a 2 percent year–to-date increase (Jan – May 2003). Arrivals from Mexico also grew once again in May, up 2 percent to 265,802 arrivals. Year-to-date Mexican arrivals were down negative 6 percent however, due to earlier declines. The only other top 10 arrival market to register growth was India. India generated a one percent increase in arrivals for May 2003 and for the first five months of 2003.

  • The OTTI will continue to monitor and report on the arrivals for the key SARS markets to help discern the impact during and after the breakout.

  • In mid-August, OTTI will release results on the impact of SARS from the Travel Barometer program for the UK, Germany, and Brazil. The summary report will review second quarter bookings and travel demand, and predict the impact on summer (3rd quarter) and fourth quarter travel. To obtain more information on the Travel Barometer go to: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/recovery/.

  • The results for the remaining top 10 markets not already discussed were: German arrivals in May contracted 7 percent to 108,187 arrivals, after an increase of 7 percent in the April. Year-to-date German arrivals are down 3 percent, compared to 2002. France has registered declines of 17 percent for the last two months contributed to an overall decline of 7 percent for the first five months. The Netherlands posted a 7 percent decline in May 2003 and for the January-May 2003 time frame. Italy recorded a 15 percent decline in May 2003. For the first five months of 2003, Italian arrivals were down 6 percent. Brazil had the second largest decline among the top 10 markets at 33 percent, with a 31 percent decline for the year.

  • To access the monthly arrivals data that provides arrival totals and percent change for 11 world regions and 19 countries, go to: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/view/m-2003-I-001/index.html.


  • Arrivals at the top 15 ports-of-entry for January-May 2003 show that while total overseas arrivals for the first five months were down 11 percent, the declines to the country were not the same when viewed at the port level (overseas excludes Canada and Mexico).

  • New York’s JFK airport, Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Boston, and Dallas all registered declines that were less than the national average. Orlando was the only top 15 port to post growth in arrivals for the first five months of 2003. Agana, Guam continued to register the largest contraction, down 36 percent.

  • Arrivals at the major ports-of-entry will have an impact on overseas visitation to the states and cities that rely upon these ports to generate visitors to their respective destinations. To see the top ports table, please visit the 2003 monthly arrivals section of the OTTI web site at: https://travel.trade.gov/view/m-2003-I-001/index.html.


The monthly Summary of International Travel to the U.S. report has approximately 30 tables that provide data on monthly and year-to-date arrivals to the country. The report provides data on approximately 90 countries each month and over 40 ports-of-entry. Numerous breakouts are provided by world region and country for the port tables as well. To learn more about this program, please go to: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/research/programs/i94/index.html.

If you would like to purchase the monthly international arrival reports for 2002 and 2003, please go to: https://travel.trade.gov/research/reports/i94/upcoming/index.html.


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Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, International Trade Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce, Room 7025

Washington, D.C. 20230
(202) 482-0140, fax: (202) 482-2887
e-mail: otti@trade.gov

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