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.