If 2008 was bad for the travel business in the United States, 2009 was worse. With 54.9 million people coming into the country, international visitation was off 5 percent. And, those who came spent far less. Visitors from abroad dropped only $121 billion last year, a 15 percent decline that cost our economy $21 billion. This is the worst year-over-year drop in spending in history, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It wasn’t all bad last year: much of the financial damage was in one place. The $4.6 billion by which UK visitor spending fell was greater than that from Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Nonetheless, concentrated losses had a global impact. The travel and tourism industry lost 400,000 jobs, eliminating virtually all employment gains for the sector since 2004. And, total travel and tourism spending in the U.S. (not just international) fell by $100 billion from 2008.