Travel to US forecast to drop 8 percent in ’09


WASHINGTON – Foreign travel to the United States is forecast to fall 8 percent in 2009, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Wednesday, as the Senate voted to create a new travel promotion program.

Total visits to the United States from Canada, Mexico and overseas countries grew 3.7 percent in 2008 to 58 million, despite troubles in the U.S. housing market that spread economic turmoil worldwide.

The forecast prepared for the Commerce Department by IHS Global Insight Inc expects foreign travel to the United States to rebound 3 percent in 2010 and then increase 5 percent annually to a record 64 million visitors in 2013.

“The numbers are a reminder that while the current global economic climate is difficult, more business sectors, like travel and tourism, are seeing glimmers of hope on the horizon,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a bill to create an independent, nonprofit corporation to run a new travel promotion campaign.

Senator Bryon Dorgan, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement the program would be funded by a small fee paid by foreign travelers visiting the United States and matching contributions from the travel industry.

The House of Representatives would also have to pass the legislation for it to become law.