International Arrivals To The United States For March and First Quarter 2004

The U.S. welcomed 8.0 million international visitors in the first quarter of 2004. This was an increase of 12 percent compared to first quarter 2003. Nineteen of the top 20 visitor markets registered gains for the quarter.

Total international arrivals (includes overseas, Canada and Mexico) to the U.S. began on a positive note in 2004, following the lead of fourth quarter 2003, which was up three percent and the only quarter to experience positive growth last year. January arrivals increased by two percent and February jumped by 13 percent, with significant contributions from Canada and Mexico. March 2004 arrivals grew by 20 percent. However, the latter was not surprising given the occurrence of the Iraqi War (commencing 3/19) and the SARS epidemic in March 2003. Also, the first quarter 2004 was up almost three percent compared to the first quarter of 2002.


The increase in overseas arrivals (excluding Canada and Mexico) was the major driver to the overall increase in international tourism. Overseas arrivals totaled 4.3 million in the first quarter, up 14 percent. Monthly contributions were January, up five percent, February, up 11 percent and March, up 26 percent.


Travel to the U.S. increased from ALL world regions in the first quarter of 2004. Visitation from Western Europe and Asia accounted for three-quarters of all overseas arrivals.

Arrivals from Western Europe totaled 770,000 for March, up 28 percent, and 1.9 million for the quarter, up 16 percent. The U.K. and Germany (see country synopsis, below) proved to be major contributors from the region.

Asian travelers totaled 465,000 for March, up 29 percent, with 1.4 million arrivals for the quarter, up 15 percent. Japan continues to be the major driver in this region (see country synopsis, below).

The turnaround story appears to be South America. With 349,000 first quarter arrivals, South America registered its first positive quarter, up seven percent, since the first quarter of 2001! Brazil was the strong performer in the region, again this quarter (see country analysis, below). Venezuela and Colombia have reversed their paths of chronic double-digit declines by registering flat growth and three percent growth, respectively. Arrivals from Argentina, a smaller market with 39,000 travelers, grew by 18 percent for the quarter.

The remaining world regions continued to show improvement in the first quarter.

Travelers from: #Arrivals – Q1 % Change 04/03 Comments - March
Eastern Europe 74,319 8.2% Poland up 23%
Middle East 100,098 14.4% Israel up 71%
Africa 43,253 2.3% South Africa up 14%
Oceania 126,177 22.3% Australia up 36%
Central America 134,486 2.0% Guatemala up 12 %
Caribbean 171,750 11.6% Bahamas up 10%

Top Visitor Markets:

In March 1.3 million Canadians visited the U.S., a 14 percent increase from 2003. Arrivals totaled 3.0 million for the first quarter, up almost 10 percent. Canadian arrivals by air increased at a lesser rate, by seven percent, registering 1.3 million passengers for the first quarter.


The U.S. Department of Commerce Mexico Travel Barometer Survey projected travel to be flat for ALL arrivals (includes both those traveling to the U.S. ‘interior’ and those traveling only within the border zone) in the first quarter.

However, in March, 241,000 Mexicans visited the U.S. ‘interior’, up 14 percent. For the quarter, there were 677,000 arrivals, an increase of seven percent. And of total arrivals to the interior, 263,000 traveled by air, up six percent for the quarter.

(U.S. ‘Interior’ is beyond the 40-kilometer border zone in the U.S.)

United Kingdom:
U.K. visitation totaled 375,000 in March, surging 26 percent. The U.K. was the only top inbound market to show annual growth in 2003, at three percent. For the first quarter 2004, arrivals totaled 907,000, up by 15 percent, making this the fourth successive quarterly increase. The U.S. Department of Commerce U.K. Travel Barometer projected an increase ranging from 16 to 20 percent. The U.K. accounted for 47 percent of all arrivals from Western Europe in the first quarter.


Japanese visitors totaled 316,000, up nearly 31 percent in March. The first quarter increased by 17 percent, improving on the fourth quarter 2003 increase of three percent. First quarter arrivals, of 904,000, accounted for nearly two-thirds of all Asian visitors.


German visitation totaled 116,000 in March, up 37 percent. There were 263,000 arrivals for the first quarter, an increase of nearly 21 percent. Strong growth (10 to 15 percent) in German visitation was anticipated for the first quarter 2004 based on observations in the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel Barometer Survey program.


Arrivals to the U.S. from France totaled 52,000 in March, up 11 percent. The first quarter grew by six percent, to a total of 155,000 visitors.

South Korea:
Visitation bounced back in the first quarter after a negative performance in the fourth quarter 2003. March and first quarter arrivals totaled 44,000 and 154,000, up 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Australian arrivals totaled 34,000 for March, up 36 percent, and 103,000 for the quarter, up 25 percent.

Traffic began to turn positive in August/September 2003, reversing a trend of double-digit decreases starting in January 2003. Following the lead set in the fourth quarter, with traffic up 15 percent, the first quarter 2004 increased 18 percent totaling 90,000 arrivals. There were 25,000 visitors in March, up 21 percent.

Italian travelers totaled 33,000 in March, up 37 percent. First quarter arrivals of 90,000 were up 16 percent, building on the positive growth rate established during the last five months of 2003.

The U.S. hosted 30,000 visitors from the Netherlands in March, up 18 percent. Reversing course from 2003, arrivals were up 14 percent for the quarter with 83,000.

PRC & Hong Kong:
The U.S. welcomed almost 26,000 visitors from the PRC/Hong Kong in March, up 48 percent from 2003.
PRC jumped 51 percent and Hong Kong increased by 43 percent.

The first quarter registered 78,000 arrivals, an improvement of 11 percent. (The severe impact from SARS was starting to be felt in March 2003.) First quarter 2004 was also a significant up-tick from the fourth quarter 2003 which declined three percent from the fourth quarter 2002.

Taiwan (ROC):
Arrivals from Taiwan in March totaled almost 19,000 visitors, up 34 percent. Increases in January and February were three and five percent, respectively. Almost 67,000 arrivals were totaled for the quarter, up 11 percent. The March 2004 quarter performed significantly better than did the fourth quarter 2003, which increased one percent.

Almost 30,000 visitors came to the U.S. from the “emerald isle” in March, up 44 percent. The first quarter saw over 66,000 arrivals, up 24 percent.

The first quarter marked the third successive quarter of growth in Spanish visitation. March arrivals, recorded at 24,000, were up 38 percent. Almost 63,000 visitors were noted for the quarter, up 24 percent.

Arrivals from India totaled over 21,000 for March and 61,000 for the quarter, up 29 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Historically, Indian visitation is at a relatively high level. In 2003, visitation was down less than one percent from the 2000 peak.

TOP PORTS – First Quarter 2004

In addition to tracking arrivals to the country, on a monthly basis, OTTI also has data on arrivals for over 40 ports of entry by all world regions and 30 countries. A brief analysis is presented on the top 15 ports for overseas arrivals in 2004.

Arrivals at the top 15 ports of entry again totaled 87 percent of all overseas arrivals in the first quarter 2004, compared to the first quarter of 2003. Top port overseas arrivals for the March quarter were up 14 percent, the same as the increase in all overseas arrivals. The top three ports of entry (Miami, New York – JFK, and Los Angeles) accounted for 38 percent of all overseas arrivals through the top ports. This was down slightly from the first quarter of 2003 during which the top three accounted for 39 percent.

Thirteen of the top fifteen airports posted increased arrivals. The exceptions were Honolulu, down two percent and Detroit, down nine percent. Agana, Guam, Orlando and Newark registered the largest increases, at 53 percent, 29 percent, and 27 percent, respectively.

Miami held on as the leading port of entry for the quarter. Agana jumped from eighth to fifth, ahead of San Francisco, Chicago and Newark. Houston displaced Detroit from the twelfth spot.

To access top port activity, go to:

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, countries and 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 2004, please go to: