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Fourth Quarter Upswing

International arrivals to US up for 3rd consecutive month

eTN Staff Writer  Mar 25, 2010

In the month of December 2009, total international visitors to the US reached 4.1 million, an increase of 5 percent over December 2008. That marked the third straight month of increased travel to the United States.

According to the US Department of Commerce, 54.9 million international visitors traveled to the United States in 2009, a decrease of 5 percent from 2008. In 2009, the top inbound markets continued to be Canada and Mexico, both of which were down in arrivals along with 6 of the 9 overseas regional markets. South America, Asia, and Oceania experienced the strongest growth in the fourth quarter due in part to increases from the emerging markets of China and Brazil.

During the fourth quarter, total arrivals increased 2 percent. That marked the first quarter to experience growth in 2009. Positive growth occurred in 15 of the top 20 arrival markets. Arrivals from Canada, Mexico, and overseas were up 4 percent, 3 percent, and 1 percent, respectively.

Annual overseas arrivals (excluding Canada and Mexico) totaled 23.8 million during 2009, down 6 percent from 2008. Travel from overseas markets accounted for 43 percent of total arrivals to the United States. While overseas travel was still down 9 percent from its peak in 2000, visitation from overseas markets is up 32 percent from its low in 2003. Five of the top 50 overseas markets set new visitation records: Australia, China/PRC, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama.

In 2009, 7 of the top 20 arrival markets posted increases, with Brazil and Argentina registering double-digit increases. The United Kingdom and Japan were among thirteen markets which experienced declines for the year. The top 20 inbound visitor markets accounted for 89 percent of all international arrivals to the United States during 2009, and as a group it was down 6 percent compared to 2008.

International visitors spent US$121.1 billion in 2009, down nearly 15 percent from 2008, the largest single year decline in spending for visitors to the United States. Visitors spent US$10.3 billion in December 2009, 8 percent less than in December 2008. December 2009 marks the 14th consecutive month in which US travel and tourism-related exports were lower when compared to the same period of the previous year.

International arrivals to United States for year-end 2009 and December 2009:

- Canadian visitation totaled 18.0 million, was down 5 percent for the year, but up 9 percent in December
- In 2009, air arrivals totaled 6.1 million, down 4 percent, and land arrivals totaled 11.7 million, down 6 percent
- Mexican arrivals totaled 13.2 million and were down 4 percent for the year
- Arrivals to the interior (only) were up 5 percent for the month
- Overseas arrivals were down 6 percent from 2008, and totaled 2.2 million for the month, which was down 3 percent from December 2008
- Visitation from western Europe decreased 10 percent for the year and 4 percent in December
- Visitation from 18 top western European markets was down for the year, but half of the top markets were up for the month
- Switzerland was the only top western European market to post an increase in 2009, but 5 of the top 10 markets registered increases in December (Germany +1 percent, Italy +12 percent, Spain +3 percent, Switzerland +17 percent, and Belgium +4 percent)
- Eastern European arrivals decreased 2 percent for the year and the month
- Visitation from Asia decreased 8 percent for the year, but increased 14 percent in December
- China and Indonesia were the two top markets from Asia to post an increase in 2009, but all of the top 10 markets registered increases in December
- Arrivals from South America increased 7 percent for the year and 12 percent for the month
- In 2009, visits from Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina were 16 percent, 1 percent, and 12 percent, respectively; US visitation from Venezuela was flat in 2009
- Oceania visitation was up 2 percent for the year and 8 percent in December
- Australia accounted for 83 percent of all visits from the region in 2009. Visits from Australia increased 5 percent in 2009 and grew 10 percent in December

Top Ports:
For 2009, arrivals through the top 15 ports of entry accounted for 85 percent of all overseas visits, up more than 1 percentage point than in 2008. The top three ports (New York JFK, Miami, and Los Angeles) accounted for 39 percent of all overseas arrivals, up one percentage point from 2008. Five of the top 15 ports posted an increase in arrivals for the year: Miami, Orlando (MCO), Houston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale.

*Mexican visitation for December and fourth quarter reflect a count of travel to the US Interior only. The annual aggregate estimate of all Mexican travelers to the United States, received from Banco de Mexico, includes all travelers.

International arrivals to US up for 3rd consecutive month
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