Visitors from outside the U.S. down 9 percent, spending a lot less

Visits from outside the United States continued their slide in August. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that 5.4 million people visited the United States from other countries in August this year. Unfortunately, that’s a drop of 9 percent from August 2008. And, the smaller number of people is spending less money when it comes here. In August 2009, international visitors spent $10 billion. This sounds like a lot, but it’s off almost 21 percent from last year. For the first eight months of this year, spending by foreign visitors reached $79.5 billion, down 17 percent year-over-year. The fact that the year-to-date decline isn’t as bad as what we saw in August suggests that the situation has been worsening.

Trends in visits from Canada and Mexico are consistent with the global trend. Canadian visits fell 6 percent in August and are off 8 percent for the year through August. Meanwhile, visits from Mexico surged in August, gaining 23 percent, with land arrivals up 37 percent and air arrivals down 7 percent. This wasn’t enough to change the situation for the year, however. For the first eight months of 2009, visits from Mexico fell six percent relative to the same period in 2008.

Visits from overseas (not including Mexico and Canada) were off 6 percent in August and 9 percent for the year. Of the top 20 countries sending visitors to the United States, 11 sustained decreases for the month of August, with five of these declines hitting double-digit levels. Along with Mexico, China, Brazil and the Bahamas posted double-digit increases. Year-to-date, 17 of the top 20 countries showed declines in visitation to the United States, eight of them reaching double-digit levels.

Europe certainly isn’t sending as many visitors to the United States as it once did. For August, visits are off 11 percent — the same rate posted for 2009 so far. The United Kingdom‘s visits to the United States were down 13 percent in August, which is disproportionately powerful, given that the United Kingdom accounts for 34 percent of all Western European arrivals in the United States. Through August, visits to the United States from the United Kingdom were off 16 percent, with Germany down 6 percent and France down 3 percent.

The trend is improving in Japan. While visits so far this year were down 16 percent by August, the month of august itself showed an improvement, with visits from Japan down only 8 percent. Japan accounts for nearly half of all Asian visitors to the United States. Year-to-date, visits from South Korea and India fell 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

It’s clear that travel to the United States continues to suffer from the effects of the worldwide recession, particularly since, the Department of Commerce says, business travel is falling faster than leisure travel this year.

[Chart courtesy of the U.S. Department of Commerce]