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Office of Travel & Tourism Industries

2008 state, city visitation and traveler characteristics data released

eTN  May 23, 2009

The US Department of Commerce announces the top states, cities, and territories benefiting from overseas travelers to the United States. In 2008, overseas arrivals to the United States posted a 6 percent growth rate.

For the sixth straight year New York State was the top state destination visited by overseas travelers. California held the second position. Florida remained in the third position, but gained ground as it realized double-digit growth for the second straight year. Nevada, Hawaii, Illinois, and Massachusetts followed the top 3 states visited.

Double-digit increases were experienced in 2008 by seven of the 21 states/territories in which estimates are available. New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all set records for overseas visitation in 2008.

The top cities visited by overseas travelers in 2008 were: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Washington, DC, Chicago and Boston. Of the 20 city visitation estimates issued, nine posted double-digit increases.

New York City continued its top spot and has posted growth for the fifth straight year. New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia set new visitation records in 2008, and only three cities registered declines. To view the top states and cities visited by overseas travelers, go to:

This year, the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI) was able to report more destinations visited estimates based on an annual sample of overseas and Mexican air travelers, the largest sample since 1999. Also, OTTI worked with several destinations to improve data collected at their local airport, and improved the weighting.

The sample increases and other improvements enable better analyses of the shifts occurring in the U.S. international marketplace. These changes, in turn, impact the destinations visited. To view the market share, volume estimates and percentage change for overseas travelers to the U.S. for 2007 and 2008, please visit OTTI's web site at:

Destination visitation estimates are publicly released for 21 states and 20 cities, a slight increase over the number of estimates issued in 2007. The limited estimates for destinations visited are due to OTTI's statistical policy implemented in 2006. The policy requires a minimum of 400 survey respondents for a public estimate. This is to help ensure the quality of the estimates. Changes in a state or city's visitation estimate vary from year-to-year because of the influence in the country visitation changes and shifts in the characteristics of the overseas visitors. For example, the decrease in travel to Hawaii/Honolulu is due principally to an overall decline in travel by Japanese visitors which account for a major part of Hawaii's foreign visitors.

Likewise, other changes in key traveler characteristics may also influence visitation, such as, business versus leisure travel, the number of destinations visited, and/or the traveler's use of transportation within the country.

In 2008, some of the key shifts in the traveler characteristics that occurred compared to 2007 and over the past several years that can impact the destinations visited include: 1) leisure travel as a purpose of trip increased for the first time in three years compared to the decline in business travelers and those visiting friends and relatives; 2) a decline in the market share of visitors using a travel package to visit the for the fourth straight year; 3) a decrease in the percent of travelers who only visit one place while within the country, after six straight years of increases; 4) a shift in the transportation used while in the U.S., to more rental cars and rail between cities.

The 2008 overseas traveler profile may be viewed at: and it illustrates the 35 traveler characteristics data that is available for a travel or census region, state, city, airport, industry sector (hotels, rental cars, credit card use, specific activities), or airline1. Included are: trip planning factors, the purpose of trip (business and/or leisure), whether a tour package was used, the proportion of first time vs. repeat travelers to the country, transportation used while within the country, demographics (age, gender, occupation type, income), activities and expenditures.

OTTI has also released 11 world regional profiles and 18 countries. These profiles provide the traveler characteristics for each market between 2007 and 2008 along with the destinations visited each year. To see the market profiles, go to:

In addition to the aggregate level data available on the web site, OTTI also offers detailed and custom reports or data on a subscription basis using the 35 tables shown in the overseas profile. For information on the research programs that were used to generate the market intelligence issued, see the publications section and custom reports section in the Research Programs area of the Survey of International Air Travelers (In-Flight Survey Program), at: .

If you have any questions or need any additional information concerning the visitation estimates, please contact OTTI.

2008 state, city visitation and traveler characteristics data released

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