Recession impact evident in January, foreign visits to U.S. down

Foreign visits to the United States are down 9 percent year-over-year for January 2009, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Spending by this group of visitors reached $10.6 billion – down 7 percent from January 2008. So, it looks like the people who spend less aren’t coming, since cash isn’t falling as fast as visitation. Slightly more than 3 million people visited the United States from abroad this year.

This confirms the worldwide effect of what was once called a “subprime mortgage crisis.” The global recession has led to a decline in consume rspending that includes travel.

Half the traffic came from our neighbors. Canada sent 1.1 million visitors to the United States, but this is down more than 12 percent year-over-year. Land arrivals fell 16 percent, with air arrivals dropping by only 8 percent. Mexico had 405,000 visitors to the United States in January. This is a decline of 4 percent. Air arrivals fell 16 percent, with land arrivals actually up 2 percent.

Excluding Canada and Mexico, U.S. arrivals totaled 1.5 million, a fall of 8 percent. Four of the top 20 countries (by number of travelers sent to the United States) showed increases, and two of them had double-digit year-over-year growth.

Brazil: up 5 percent (and showing 32 months of consecutive increases)

China: up 37 percent (and showing 35 months of consecutive increases)

Italy: up 6 percent (showing 25 months of consecutive increases)

Argentina: up 19 percent (and showing 30 months of consecutive increases)

U.S. visitation from the 27 countries in the European Union fell 11 percent overall for January 2009 (relative to January 2008), and travel from Western Europe was down 12 percent. Western Europe accounts for 37 percent of all overseas arrivals to the United States. Travel from Eastern Europe to the United States was up 5 percent. Travel from Asia to the United States, on the other hand, fell 9 percent year-over-year but nonetheless accounted for 31 percent of overseas arrivals to the United States. Travel from Japan fell 13 percent, with South Korea down 17 percent. Visits from India plunged 12 percent year-over-year.


Record influx of visitors to U.S. in 2008

Last year, 58 million international visitors came to the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s an increase of nearly 4 percent from 2007. To sweeten it up a bit, 13 of the top 25 arrivals markets saw new records set. In the last month of the year, nearly 4 million people came here from abroad – down 7 percent. The fourth quarter was down 6 percent year-over-year.

So, we saw most of the action in the first nine months of 2008.

The first three quarters were grand, last year. Seventeen of the top 20 arrivals markets were up from 2007, with one flat and two down. Visitors from Canada were growing at a double-digit rate, though trips from Mexico were down. The rest of the world was up 9 percent for the first nine months of 2008, relative to the same period in 2007.

It all changed at the beginning of October, though. Only 12 of the top 20 countries sent more visitors than in the first quarter of 2007. Canada and Mexico were down, and visits from the rest of the world dropped by 3 percent. You can check the arrival stats monthly by clicking here.
Canada sent 18.9 million people to the United States last year, most of them by land. But, air arrivals grew at a faster rate – 8 percent compared to 6 percent. Another 13.8 million people visited the United States from Mexico. The total is down 4 percent from 2007, with air arrivals down 9 percent.

A total of 25.3 million people visited from the rest of the world – i.e., countries other than Canada and Mexico. While this is up 6 percent from 2007, it’s still 2 percent below the record set in 2000. Since 2003, the number of guests arriving from overseas is up 33 percent.

Western Europe shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, that part of the world brought 12.2 million tourists to the United States, a 12 percent gain year-over-year. This group comprised 48 percent of all overseas arrivals. But, they slowed down in December (by 3 percent). France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and Norway set arrival records.

  • Germany: 17 percent
  • France: 25 percent
  • Italy: 23 percent
  • Netherlands: 20 percent
  • Spain: 27 percent
  • Ireland: 8 percent
  • Sweden: 18 percent
  • Switzerland: 15 percent

No records were set in the United Kingdom. Visitors from the country to which we once belonged were up 1 percent for the year but down 14 percent in December. Thirty-seven percent of Western European arrivals come here from the United Kingdom.

And, there’s a hell of a lot more of this available, thanks to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.

Check out some of these wacky laws, place names and signs from around the world!

Travel to U.S. up in 2008, down in October

Buoyed by the first part of the year, international travel to the United States was up 7 percent for the first 10 months of 2008. According to the U.S. Department Commerce, 43 million people visited the country. For the month of October, though, travel was down 2 percent, at 4 million.

But, those who came spent a lot more. International visitors dropped $11.9 billion last October, up 7 percent relative to October 2007. For the entire year, our guests pumped $120.3 billion into our economy. The dollar may be slumping, but clearly it takes more than a currency swing to keep people from checking into our hotels.

So, where did this money come from?

Well, Canadians played a greater role, with the number of our northern neighbors heading south increasing by 10 percent. The United Kingdom sent fewer people to the United States this year (-5 percent), but Germany, Italy and France delivered-up 19 percent, 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland were pretty good to us as well.

Though travel to Asia is likely to decline in the coming year, travel from the region (to the United States at least) is sending mixed signals. South Korean visitors are down slightly, but the number of people trekking from China jumped 26 percent. Japan, which accounts for 52 percent of all Asian visitors to the United States, is down 7 percent year-over-year.

Are you a travel stats junkie? Click here to take a closer look at the data.

People still coming to U.S., spending money

Over the first nine months of the year, 39 million people visited the United States from abroad, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In September alone, we had 4.1 million guests. International is still up 8 percent from the first nine months of 2007, but September visits were flat year-over-year. This probably means that the rising dollar is slamming tourists from Europe, making them less interested in us.

Apparently, they only like us when their money is worth more.

It’s cool, as long as they spend like sailors on shore leave, which they did. Through September, visitors to the United States from foreign countries dropped almost $110 billion – up a mind-blowing 22 percent from 2007. Seriously! Financial crisis be damned! Europeans have money, and they know how to put it to work!

More Canadians, so far, have come this year (+12 percent), and more of them took planes. Fewer Mexicans visited the United States, as well, but Western Europe more than compensated. The number of tourists posing in Times Square while listening to David Hasselhoff on their iPods was up 17 percent. Almost half of all visitors from abroad were from Western Europe. Most of them were Germans (+20 percent), French (+28 percent), and Italians (+29 percent). There were 28 percent more Russian tourists, too.

Are you a stats geek? Get the rest of the story straight from the Department of Commerce.