The United States International Travel Industry
The Economic Engine
Total sales of tourism-related goods and services grew seven percent in 2004 to $550 billion, according to preliminary estimates of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The industries supported employment for over 5.4 million workers, up less than one percent over 2003.
International travel is one of the largest exports for the United States, ranking ahead of agricultural goods and motor vehicles. It is the largest services sector export category, accounting for 28 percent of all services exports.
The 2004 total U.S. international travel receipts, including international passenger airfare payments made by non-resident visitors to U.S. carriers, generated more than $93 billion in export revenue for the country.
The United States has continued to produce a travel surplus, generating over $4 billion in 2004. The surplus has been produced continuously since 1989, peaking at $29.3 billion in 1991. A surplus occurs when international visitors to the country spend more than U.S. residents spend when traveling abroad.
Expenditures by international visitors from other nations in 2004 directly supported almost one million jobs in the United States. Payroll revenues generated by international tourism were estimated at more than $22 billion for 2004. International visitors generated tax revenues of more than $12 billion in 2004.
2004 Total Visitation & Spending Levels
International visitors to the United States totaled 46.1 million in 2004, up 12 percent, or 4.9 million additional travelers from the total arrivals reported in 2003. The increase in 2004 was the largest single year increase in arrivals since 1992. The visitation record was set in 2000 at 51.2 million.
The United States’ largest source markets were Canada (30% of all visitors in 2004), Mexico (26%), U.K. (9%), Japan (8%), Germany (3%), France (2%), and Korea (1%). Five of these seven markets each generated over one million visitors to the U.S. Combined, these seven markets accounted for over 79 percent of all 2004 international arrivals.
In 2004, the United States ranked third behind France and Spain for world international visitors for the fourth straight year, with 5.9 percent world market share. In terms of travel receipts (exports), the U.S. ranks first among worldwide destinations. The United States’ share of world travel receipts was 12 percent in 2004. Spending by international travelers to the United States, totaling $74 billion (excluding passenger fares) was almost double the level of spending in any other country.
While Canada and Mexico ranked first and second in terms of visitation for 2004, preliminary estimates indicate that for the second year in a row, the United Kingdom was the number one generator of total travel exports for the country, accounting for 14 percent of the total. Japan followed with 13 percent of total receipts for the U.S., ahead of Canada (11%) and Mexico (9%).
The 2004 Cultural Heritage Traveler to the U.S.
Overseas visitors to the United States for cultural heritage tourism totaled 10.6 million in 2004, of the 20.3 million total overseas visitors to the country. Overseas excludes Canada and Mexico.
The United States’ largest source markets for cultural heritage travel were U.K. (25%), Japan (13%), Germany (9%), France (5%), and Australia (4%). Five of these seven markets each generated between 400,000 and 2.7 million visitors to the U.S. Combined, these seven markets accounted for over 56 percent of all 2004 cultural tourism visitors to the country.
Overseas travelers to the country were predominantly repeat visitors (76%), with one in five (24%) being first time visitors.
Almost two-fourths (73%) of the overseas cultural heritage travelers visiting the U.S. in 2004 came for leisure purposes and/or to visit friends and relatives (41%), while the balance came for business and convention purposes.
In 2004, the average overseas cultural heritage visitor’s length of stay in this country was just over 19 nights, slight longer than the average overseas visitor (16 nights), and more than four times longer than the average domestic trip.
The top states visited by overseas cultural heritage travelers in 2004 were: New York, California, Florida, Nevada, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. These six states/territories each hosted over 700,000 cultural heritage visitors in 2004.
Favorite destinations for overseas travelers in 2004 were: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Washington, DC, Honolulu, and Orlando. These eight cities each hosted over 700,000 cultural heritage visitors in 2004.
Overseas travelers to the United States are mobile. On average, in 2004, they visited more than two destinations. They also used taxis (43%), rented cars (31%), took a domestic flight (30%), used the city subway/bus (30%), used company or private automobiles (29%), took a bus between cities (12%), and used rail to see the country (12%).
Overseas travelers are far more inclined to stay at hotels/motels (79%) than are domestic travelers. In 2004, the average number of nights in a hotel/motel was 8.5. Spending on all lodging was the number one expense item for overseas travelers while in the country.
There were far more independent overseas travelers (81%) visiting the United States than visitors using a travel package (19%). Of the package travelers, the most frequent combination of components in the package was air and lodging.
Unlike U.S. domestic travelers, overseas travelers to the U.S. plan their trips well in advance. In 2004, the average advance trip decision time was 92 days. Airline ticket reservations were made 61 days in advance of their trips.
Overseas travelers also use a variety of sources to find information about the U.S. In 2004, the top sources of information were: travel agent (48%), the Internet (37%), airlines (19%), and friends/relatives (19%).
Airline reservations were booked primarily through the travel agents (56%). Booking via use of the Internet (16%), and with the airlines directly (14%), were the next largest means for booking airline reservations by overseas travelers.
Note: International travelers include all non-U.S. residents who visit the country. Overseas excludes Canada and Mexico.
For more information on the international travel market to the United States, please visit the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries web site at: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, Bureau of Economic Analysis, & Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), October 2005