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Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004
From: TInews Announcement <announce@tinet.ita.doc.gov>
To: TInews Announcement <tiannounce@tinet.ita.doc.gov>
Subject: U.S. Outbound travel in 2003 dropped for the third straight year; yet travel to overseas destinations showed a strong rebound during the year

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

December 17, 2004

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

U.S. Outbound travel in 2003 dropped for the third straight year; yet travel to overseas destinations showed a strong rebound during the year

The country experienced its third straight year of decline in the international outbound market. In 2003, 56.2 million U.S. residents traveled abroad for one night or longer. This was down three percent from 58 million in 2002. U.S. outbound travel peaked in 2000 at 61.3 million travelers, up from 44.4 million in 1993. The top two markets, Mexico and Canada, saw declines in 2003 as travel to overseas destinations increased by five percent. Total outbound estimates for 1993 – 2003 have been changed to account for revisions to U.S. travel to Mexico (see below).


In 2003, spending by U.S. travelers abroad totaled $77.6 billion, down almost two percent compared to 2002 at $78.8 billion. The peak year for U.S. travel spending abroad was 2000 when travelers spent almost $89 billion. The drop in spending from 2000 to 2003 was down 13 percent.

Top five countries, accounting for U.S. spending in 2003 were United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Germany and France. Compared to 2000 Germany moved to fourth, ahead of France.

Mexico was the top U.S. international destination in 2003 with 17.6 million travelers. This volume was down five percent compared to 2002. Travel to Mexico has fluctuated over the last 10 years, peaking in 1996 with 20.3 million travelers. The strongest growth periods were in 1995, up 20 percent and 2000, up 10 percent.

The United States has revised its 1993 – 2003 visitation estimates for travel to Mexico. The new figures are based upon survey research from the Bank of Mexico and provide improved estimates for U.S. travelers to Mexico.


Canada continues to be the number two destination for U.S. international travelers. In 2003, 14.2 million U.S. travelers visited our northern neighbor, a 12 percent decrease from 2002. Although Canada generally has been a growth market over the last decade its slide in 2003 significantly contributed to the overall decline in international traffic.


U.S. travel to overseas markets in 2003 increased by almost five percent to 24.5 million travelers. This reversed the previous two-year decline in U.S. travel to countries other than Canada and Mexico.


The top five overseas markets visited by U.S. travelers in 2003 were: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Jamaica. Of these, the only markets to experience an increase over 2002 were the United Kingdom, which increased to 3.3 million, up one percent and Jamaica to 1.5 million, up 52%.

Destinations that experienced the highest growth in visitations between 1993 and 2003 were the People’s Republic of China, 64 percent, Brazil, 138 percent, Jamaica, 82 percent, Bahamas, 69 percent, Spain, 70 percent and Italy, 47 percent.

The Office of 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 on a business/convention trip. There are 32 different pieces of information on the U.S. outbound traveler that can assist the industry into understanding who these travelers are and what they do.

Select highlights, comparing 2003 to 2002 include:

  • The top cities of origin for U.S. travel to overseas destinations in 2003 were: New York City, Washington, DC, Miami, Nassau, NY, and Los Angeles. (Miami and Nassau moved ahead of Los Angeles). Chicago and San Francisco are tied as the sixth largest city of origin.
  • Advance trip decision time increased from an average of 78 to 80 days and airline reservation times edged up from 48 to 49 days.
  • Internet continues to grow in importance as a source of information and for booking international airline reservations.
  • Pre-paid packages increased from 11 percent to 13 percent of overseas travelers
  • Main purpose of the overseas trip was leisure/recreation/holiday for 39 percent of the travelers, up from 37 percent. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) was the second highest main purpose of trip at 31 percent. Business travel comprised 22 percent of outbound travel.
  • The average length of trip remained at 15.9 nights outside the USA.
  • Nine percent of travelers were on their first international trip, up from five percent, and the average number of trips taken by U.S. travelers going overseas in the last 12 months was 2.9, down from 3.1.
  • Top activities for U.S. travelers were: dining in restaurants, shopping, visiting historical places, sightseeing in cities and visiting small towns and villages.
  • Average international airfare was $1,335, down 5 percent from $1,409, and the average trip expenditures per visitor were $1,206, down nine percent from $1,332 in 2002.
  • More males traveled abroad than females. The average ages of males and females were 46 and 43 years old, respectively.
  • Average household income was $112,100, up two percent from $110,300 in 2002.

Detailed Information
In-depth information available on OTTI website:

-U.S. Outbound traveler profile http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/view/f-2003-101-001/index.html

-Top 25 markets for U.S. outbound travel

-A timeline with visitation estimates for U.S. residents traveling abroad between 1993 and 2003 for almost 60 countries http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/view/f-2003-11-001/index.html

-Receipts & Payments http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/view/f-2003-03-001/index.html

-Balance of Payments http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/view/f-2003-12-001/indexrev.html

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.


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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