International Arrivals to the United States - Third Quarter 2003
International Arrivals to the United States For September, Third Quarter, and the YTD 2003

The U.S. welcomed 25,826,468 international visitors throughout the first nine months of 2003, a decline of 6.2 percent compared to 2002. Only two of the top ten visitor arrival markets registered positive gains – the United Kingdom (up 2.3 percent) and Spain (also up 2.3 percent).

Total international arrivals to the U.S. began on a positive note in 2003. However, a sluggish global economy, the Iraqi War (commencing 3/19), SARS (March/April), and airline capacity constraints contributed to eight months of contraction over the period February through the September of 2003. The rate of contraction has generally been declining. In other words there has been a subtle shift upwards since the first quarter. (Graph) To some extent the declines in March were partially offset by the gains in April due to the different dates in the occurrence of Easter (March 31, 2002 vs. April 20, 2003).

International Arrivals - 2003


In September 3.0 million visitors came to the U.S. This represents a 3.5 percent decline, or 108,000 fewer arrivals than last September. On a quarterly basis the September results contributed to a 3.3 percent drop, or 365,000 fewer visitors this year. Nevertheless, third quarter was an improvement over second and first quarters that dropped 8.5 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively. As mentioned above the cumulative year-to-date downturn of 6.2 percent, accounted for 1.71 million fewer arrivals this year.

The decline in overseas arrivals, excluding Canada and Mexico, was the major contributor to the overall decline in international tourism throughout the year. However, in September there were 1.7 million overseas arrivals, a decline of less than 1 percent, the smallest monthly decline since February. For the third quarter there were 5.3 million arrivals, a drop of 4 percent. And for the year, through September, overseas arrivals totaled 13.1 million, a decline of 8.6 percent, or 1.2 million fewer travelers than last year.

Overseas Arrivals - 2003


Travel to the U.S. declined from all world regions for the first nine months of 2003. The strongest major world region was Western Europe, which grew 1.6 percent in September and 0.5% in the third quarter. Arrivals from Western Europe totaled 6.0 million year-to-date, a 1 percent decline from 2002. Asia origin traffic declined 4.5 percent in September, its smallest monthly decline since February. For the third quarter Asian arrivals dropped 8.6 percent, a major improvement over the second quarter (down 33.6 percent). For the year, arrivals from Asia totaled 3.6 million, a decline of 16.3 percent, or 710,000 less visitors.

Arrivals from South America continued to register the largest overall decline, down 6.2 percent in September, down 12.5 percent for the third quarter with an accumulated 20 percent decline year-to-date.
(Venezuela has been a driver in the decline with chronic double-digit declines all year. Argentina, however strongly improved in the third quarter. Colombian arrivals, while down 16 percent for the year, have been increasing in the latter two quarters).

The remaining world regions generally showed improvement in September that carried into quarterly and year-to-date comparisons.

  September ‘03 Third Qtr ‘03 YTD‘03
Eastern Europe + 2.4% -2.2% -5.1%
Middle East + 0.7% -6.1% -10.9%
Africa +10.0% +2.0% -3.7%
Oceania +1.1% +1.1% -3.3%
Central America -0.5% -4.9% -8.6%
Caribbean +1.2% -3.0% -8.5%

Top Visitor Markets:

Canadian travel to the U.S. took an unexpected drop of 7.9 percent in September, following a 0.7 percent gain in August. Arrivals were down 3.4 percent for the third quarter, and down 3.7 percent overall for the first nine months of 2003. For the year a total of 9.95 million visitors arrived from Canada, about 380 thousand less than last year. Performance does not appear to be trending with the generally weaker U.S. Dollar during the year (from $1.54 in January to $1.36 in September) nor the modest economic growth (GDP up over 3 percent for 2003).

Canada Arrivals - 2003


Mexican arrivals declined by less than 1 percent in September following a 4.4 percent drop in August. Third quarter results were flat compared with what appears to have been the rather erratic behavior earlier in the year, i.e., first quarter was down 27 percent while second quarter increased by over 19 percent (partially explained by the “Easter effect”. Year-to-date, 2.8 million Mexican arrivals visited the U.S., down 2.9 percent from last year, some 83,000 less visitors. In general, performance appears to be linked, at least in part, to the stronger U.S. Dollar.

Mexican Arrivals - 2003


United Kingdom:
U.K. arrivals grew by 4.5 percent in September boosting third quarter results by 2.7 percent following a 5.9 percent increase in the second quarter and a 2.3 percent drop in the first quarter (note: part of the offsets from March (1Q) to April (2Q) appear to be due to Easter). A total of 2.8 million U.K. visitors came to the U.S. through the first nine months, up by about 60,000 visitors, or 2.3 percent.

United Kingdom Arrivals - 2003


A continuing sluggish economy (1 percent GDP growth) combined with the effects of the Iraqi war and SARS severely impacted the number of Japanese arrivals to the United States since May of this year.

Arrivals from Japan declined by 6.8 percent in September. The third quarter results were down by 11.7 percent, a vast improvement from the 37 percent decline in second quarter. On a year-to-date basis, arrivals totaled over 2.2 million, down by 17.8 percent from 2002, approximately 480 thousand visitors.

Japan Arrivals - 2003


The number of German travelers declined by 2.8 percent for the year through September. There were 863 thousand arrivals, approximately 25,000 fewer than last year. For the month of September there was an unexpected drop in arrivals of 4.8 percent. This may have been tied to, in part, a strengthening of the U.S. Dollar to the Euro from June through August. Although third quarter arrivals were down by 1.1 percent the period fared better than the first and second quarters that were down 5.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

German Arrivlas - 2003


Arrivals to the U.S. from France totaled 515 thousand throughout the first nine months of the year, about 42,000 fewer travelers than last year, representing a 7.6% drop. September traffic was down 5.5 percent contributing to a 6.9 percent decline for the third quarter. The recent quarter’s performance was a marked improvement over the second quarter drop of 16.2 percent.

South Korea:
For the first nine months of the year over 482,000 travelers visited the U.S. from South Korea, some 9,000, or 1.8 percent, less than in 2002. September traffic was up 2.2 percent, marking the fourth consecutive month of positive growth, contributing to a 3.9 percent gain in the third quarter. The recent quarter’s performance was an improvement over the second quarter decline of 8 percent. Ironically, during second quarter, June arrival growth of 1.8 percent qualified South Korea as one of the 3 top international markets.

Australian visitors to the U.S. totaled 297 thousand, down 3.2 percent, or almost 10,000 less than during the first nine months of 2002. Arrivals in September were flat, as was the third quarter performance after two successive negative quarters, down 2.1 percent and down 7.4 percent, respectively.

During nine months of the year 294 thousand Italian tourists entered the U.S., about 5,000, or 1.8 percent, less than last year. September’s arrivals, up 12.9 percent, marks the second consecutive month of double-digit growth (August was up 19.2 percent). The resulting third quarter was a positive 2.5 percent, up from the second quarter decline of 13.8 percent.

There were 274 thousand visitors from the Netherlands through September of this year, down about 10,000, or 3.3 percent. Arrivals in were up 1.2 percent in September and the third quarter, the first positive quarterly growth this year (arrivals were down 0.4 percent and 10.5 percent in the first and second quarters).

Over 250 thousand travelers came to the U.S. from Brazil during the nine months of 2003, down 21.5 percent, or over 68,000 visitors. September traffic was up 9.1 percent following a 1.7 percent increase in August – the only positive growth for the year, reversing a trend of double-digit decreases. While the third quarter was still down, 6.5 percent, it showed a marked improvement over the first two quarters, down 27.5 percent and 29.9 percent, respectively. So at this point the recent performance met expectations as reported last time. According to the Brazilian Travel Barometer the Brazilian trade is optimistic for modest gains in travel demand for the third and fourth quarter of 2003.

About 205 thousand visitors, originating from Spain, came to the U.S. during the first 3 quarters of 2003. Travel was up 2.3 percent, or almost 5,000 visitors during this period. Visitations were up 15.4 percent in September, following a 10.6 percent gain in August. Third quarter results were up by 6 percent, outpacing the previous two quarters, one percent up in the first and a 2 percent drop in the second.

PRC & Hong Kong:
Slightly over 201 thousand visitors came from the PRC/Hong Kong during the year. This was down 30.2 percent, or 87,000 visitors, from the same period last year. September’s results were the “least negative”, down 8.4 percent, helping to move third quarter to a negative 18.3 percent. While the year started out on a positive note (January was up 1.1 percent) every successive month suffered double-digit declines until September.


In addition to tracking arrivals to the country, on a monthly basis, OTTI also has data on arrivals for over 40 ports of entry. A brief analysis is presented on the top 15 ports for overseas arrivals for the first nine months of 2003. Within the report OTTI issues using this database, arrivals are tracked for the top 40 ports by all world regions and 30 countries.

-Arrivals at the top 15 ports-of-entry accounted for 85 percent of all overseas arrivals in the January-September 2003 time frame. Total overseas arrivals, year-to-date were down 8.6 percent approximating the decline at the top port level. The top three ports-of-entry (New York - JFK, Miami and Los Angeles) accounted for 37 percent of all overseas arrivals to the U.S.

-New York's JFK Airport, Chicago O'Hare, Newark, Boston and Detroit all registered declines of less than the national average. Orlando and Sanford, Florida Airports were the top 15 airports that posted increases in arrivals year-to-date 2003. Agana, Guam continued to register the largest contraction, 30 percent.

-New York JFK held on as the leading port of entry year-over-year, maintaining its lead over Miami for the last four months. Chicago held onto position five and Newark moved up one rank into seventh place. Washington D.C. displaced Atlanta from position nine. Sanford moved back up to position thirteen displacing Detroit.

Arrivals at the top 15 ports-of-entry for January-September 2003 show that while total overseas arrivals for the first nine months were down 8.6 percent, the specific changes were different at the port level. Destinations can monitor visitation changes by tracking the port activity through which most visitors pass to each state or city within the United States.

Further Information:

The above analysis is a synopsis of the world regions and the top markets generating arrivals to the United States. Arrival statistics for the top countries and world regions may be accessed on-line from the monthly section of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) web site at:

Once on this page, there are numerous links to tables that provide arrivals for the top arrival markets to the United States. Please take a look at each of the links available.

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 ?? countries for the port tables as well. To learn more about this program, please go to:

If you would like to purchase the monthly international arrival reports for 2002 and 2003, please go to: