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June 16, 2014

2013 Overseas Visitation Estimates, and Characteristics of Travelers to U.S. States and Cities Released

Strong Growth in Travel for Leisure Purposes and Visiting Friends and Relatives Lead Increases Across all Purposes of Travel to the U.S. Increases in Visitation Across all U.S. Ports of Entry Not Always Reflected by Increases in Visitation to Nearby Cities. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the results of its 2013 Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) effort. 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 to the United States and the destinations.

On April 7th Commerce reported international travel to the United States in 2013. Travel volume from overseas regions, based on DHS I-94 arrival records, was up eight percent compared to 2012. An in-depth analysis of the arrival information was released on May 29th in the “2013 International Visitation to the United States Report.

In summary, visitation patterns were more ‘balanced’ in 2013 than in 2012. For example, in 2012 visitation to 10 city destinations had declined compared to 2011 whereas in 2013 ‘only’ two city destinations showed a decline. Traveler characteristics reflected subtle, yet significant changes that impact the destination visited estimates.

Traveler Characteristics:
All travel, measured by the various main purposes of trip, increased in volume in 2013, but by varying degrees. The average number of states and destinations visited declined. The average length of stay increased, and the travel party size remained the same. The number of tour packages and first time travelers grew. The use of intercity transportation modes declined slightly.

Trip Purposes:

  • Leisure Travel (Vacation/Holiday), estimated at record 21.4 million travelers in 2013, increased seven percent from 2012. Regions that produced increases in leisure travel were South America, Asia (except Japan), Europe, and Oceania. All of the top U.S. destinations experienced growth in leisure travelers, with Florida, California and Hawaii at double digits. Florida and California both set records in 2013 for the most travelers visiting the state for a vacation.
  • Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) estimated at 9.2 million travelers was up seven percent from 2012.
  • Business travel, estimated at 4.9 million increased six percent in 2013. Business travel to the United States was up from most top origin countries, including Japan at 23 percent and India at 28 percent. New York, California, Texas and Illinois received significant increases in business travel.
  • Convention travel, estimated at record 3.0 million travelers, increased by three percent.
  • The average number of states visited in 2013 declined from 1.5 to 1.4 and the percentage of travelers visiting only one state increased to a 72.2 percent share of total visitors, up 1.7 percentage points in 2013. The average number of destinations visited declined from 2.0 to 1.9 and there was also a one percentage point increase in the number of travelers who visited only one destination. The shift of overseas travelers visiting only one place benefitted the destinations visited, but had a negative effect on those areas that have relied on being a secondary destination.
  • The length of stay in the United States averaged 17.5 nights, up from the 17.0 nights in 2012.However, the top 10 overseas arrival markets showed little increase in the length of visit. In fact, declines were noted from the U.K., Japan, South Korea, and China markets. Increases were noted from India and Russia and virtually no changes were registered from Brazil, France and Australia.
  • The travel party size remained at 1.6. For Asian travelers, however, the average party size decreased from 1.8 to 1.7, meaning that the number of travel parties actually increased, from 4.6 million to 5.3 million, up 16 percent.
  • The usage of a ‘conventional’ tour package (including at minimum both air and lodging), estimated at 5.8 million, increased by three percent in 2013. The share of all travelers using a package declined to 18.1 percent from 19 percent in 2012. The European and South American markets contributed to this overall decline in share. Consequently, the number of independent travelers increased by nine percent in 2013.
  • First time travelers to the United States, estimated at 7.6 million, increased by 10 percent in 2013 and as a share of all travelers increased from 23.2 in 2012 to 23.7 percent in 2013. Repeat travelers increased by a lesser amount, seven percent, to 24.4 million, a decline in share from 2012. ‘Repeat’ visitors characteristically venture beyond the top destinations. The relative decline in repeat visitors does correlate with fewer destinations and states visited, as noted above.
  • Transportation used in United States decreased for intercity travel by air and rail (by less than one percentage point, respectively), but increased slightly by bus. Usage of company or private auto declined, but rented auto increased. Those who took cruises (1+ night) held at four percent of overseas visitors.

Destinations Visited (Regions/States/Cities):

All of the shifts in traveler characteristics noted above had their impact on the destinations visited by overseas travelers to the United States between 2012 and 2013. In addition, the travelers’ ports of entry may also have an effect. In 2013, all of the top 15 ports of entry experienced increases in overseas volume, however, not all of the cities near those ports of entry benefitted from their proximity.For example, both the Atlanta (ATL) and Washington Dulles (IAD) international airports were up eight percent in overseas inbound traffic. However visitation to Atlanta and Washington, DC declined by 12 percent and three percent, respectively. The two ports of entry may have experienced a higher number of connecting, rather than local passengers. This could have negatively affected the destinations. Also, states, territories and cities rely on all 30+ U.S. ports of entry, to varying degrees, to ‘feed’ visitors to their destinations.

Regional shifts also have an impact on the destinations visited.In 2013, the Pacific Islands (Hawaii) and West South Central (Texas) regions experienced visitor volume growth of 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively, above the national average of eight percent.Observing the shifts that occurred at the national level will help explain shifts at specific destinations.

Top States/Territories Visited by all Overseas Countries in 2013:

New York State was the most visited state by overseas travelers in 2013. It has been the most visited state for ten consecutive years. Visitation to the state (9.8 million) increased by five percent, reversing its 2012 decline. However, its share of all overseas travelers slipped from 31.3 percent to 30.6. Florida remained in second position, with a 10 percent increase in visitation, bringing it to 7.2 million, a record for overseas travel to the state. Florida has held the number two spot five times since 2001 and was tied for first in 2001 and 2003. California visitation (6.5 million) increased eight percent from 2012 helping it to maintain third position. The state has held the number two position five times since 2004. Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, Guam, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania rounded out the top 10 states/territories visited.Of the 21 states/territories for which estimates are available, double-digit increases were experienced by five states. Louisiana and Texas posted the highest growth rates at 18 and 17 percent, respectively. Overseas visitation records were also set by New York, Florida, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, Texas, Illinois and Washington.

Top Cities Visited by all Overseas Countries 2013:

The cities most visited by overseas travelers in 2013 were New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston. Of the 20 city visitation estimates issued, 17 posted increases (vs. only nine in 2012), seven of which were double-digit increases.The largest visitation increases were experienced by Houston (22 percent) and Orlando (17 percent). In 2013, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Houston, and San Diego all set overseas visitation records as did New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Honolulu.

To view the top states and cities visited by overseas travelers, please go to: https://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/2013_States_and_Cities.pdf

Changes in a destination’s visitation estimate vary due to changes in its origin market, ‘demand side factors,’ shifts in traveler characteristics and normal statistical variances. For the top four states visited, the following helps to quantify the significant shifts in source market visitation from the top world regions, and each of these destinations has very different source markets which all grew or declined at different rates than they did for the United States:

  • Overseas visitation to New York State (9.8 million) was up five percent in 2013. Travel was up from all world regions. From Europe (5.1 million), up four percent; from Asia (1.7 million), up 12 percent; from South America (1.4 million), up five percent; from the Caribbean (519,000), up eight percent; and from Middle East (486,000), up three percent. New York City dominated visitation to the state and was also up five percent.
  • Visitation to Florida (7.2 million) was up 10 percent. Travel to the state was up from South America (3.1 million), 18 percent, and Central America (386,000), up 28 percent. Travel from Europe (2.6 million) was down two percent. Miami and Orlando were the two top destinations, up 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
  • California state visitation (6.5 million) was up eight percent. Travel to the state was up from Asia (2.4 million) by 10 percent; Europe (2.5 million), up three percent and Oceania (700,000), up 11 percent. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Anaheim were the top cities visited and all increased, by 11 percent, nine percent, eight percent and one percent, respectively.
  • Hawaii visitation (3.2 million) was up 12 percent. Measureable source markets continued to be Japan (1.6 million), up three percent and Australia (527,000), up 47 percent.

NTTO has released 22 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 2013. Also, overseas market profiles and ‘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: https://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/inbound.general_information.inbound_overview.html

Administrative Notes:

This 2013 SIAT data release is about one month behind schedule due to delays in the receipt of I-94 data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS experienced additional challenges during its post-conversion processing of the electronic I-94 system pertaining to arrivals records from countries for which visas are required. 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.A comparison of the weighted SIAT country of residence and port of entry figures to the respective DHS I-94 counts for each country and port discloses the variance between the two estimates to be 0.0%. This shows that the weighting process adjusts for over or under sampling at the country and port level. From all indications, DHS’ challenges have been resolved and NTTO anticipates receiving the 2014 electronic I-94 data on a timelier basis.

In 2013 NTTO collected 39,309 non-resident (overseas inbound) SIAT responses, down six percent from 2012. This still exceeds the number of annual responses collected from 2000 through 2011. The continuation and enhancement of the supplemental survey collections at 12 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.

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

2013 was the 30th year the Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) has been in operation resulting in 360 continuous months of surveying passengers on flights departing the United States. NTTO plans to issue a supplemental report, highlighting industry trends over the last 30 years and changes that have been reflected by the SIAT program.

U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO), 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Mail Stop 10003, Washington, DC 20230; Phone:(202) 482-0140; Fax: (202) 482-2887; Email: ntto@trade.gov