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Even though 2017’s headlines rocked the world with a “travel ban” in the US, the country still saw the highest number of international visitors than it ever has before.
The US National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) announced on Tuesday that almost 77 million international visitors entered the United States in 2017. That’s a .7% percent increase from the previous year.
International travelers reportedly spent a record $251.4 billion on travel expenses within the US like hotels and food — a 2% increase from 2016.
Visits from abroad dipped in 2016 after a seven-year run of increases. Many in media and the travel industry placed the blame on harsh rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims by then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
They have a point though, visits from the Middle East and Mexico were significantly down in 2017. Mexicans citizens visited 6% less, and people from Middle Eastern countries came 12% less often.
Growing markets were led by a variety of nations:
- South Korea (+17.8 percent)
- Brazil (+11 percent)
- Argentina (+10 percent)
- Ireland (+9 percent)
- Canada (+4.8 percent)
“The United States enjoys a trade surplus of more than $77.4 billion for travel and tourism, and these exports help support more than 1.2 million American jobs,” said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “U.S. travel and tourism-related exports accounted for nearly 32 percent of all U.S. services exports and 11 percent of all U.S. exports, goods, and services alike.”
In April, the NTTO and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped publishing arrivals data due to anomalies that misclassified 4.5 million records. Isabel Hill, director of the NTTO, said that kiosks at airports where international travelers scanned their passports were incorrectly counting residency instead of citizenship. Hill says the agency is confident its resolved the issue.
Roger Dow, chief executive of the US Travel Association, told the LA Times that although international visits are growing, they aren’t on pace with the rest of the world.
“U.S. market share has eroded, which means we are not adequately harnessing global travel growth to keep adding jobs and exports to the U.S. balance sheet,” said Dow.
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