The United States International Travel Industry
Key Facts About Inbound Tourism

May 8, 2000

  • International visitors rose to 48.5 million in 1999, up 5 percent or 2.1 million travelers from the total arrivals reported in 1998. International arrivals to the United States set a new record, surpassing the previous record set in 1997. In 1998, the Asian financial crisis and other world wide economic problems had its impact on arrivals. The country saw a 3 percent decline in 1998 international arrivals.
  • The United States largest inbound markets were Canada (29 percent of all visitors in 1999), Mexico (20 percent), Japan (10 percent), U.K. (9 percent), Germany (4 percent), and France (2 percent). All of these markets generated over one million visitors to the country. These six countries combined accounted for 74 percent of all 1999 international arrivals,
  • Among the top 20 overseas markets in 1999, over one half set new records for arrivals to the United States.
  • The United States ranks third behind France and Spain for world international visitors for the second straight year.
  • In terms of travel receipts/exports, the U.S. ranks first among world-wide destinations. The United States' share of world travel receipts was 16 percent in 1999. Spending by international travelers to the United States is more than double the level for any other country.
  • Total U.S. international travel receipts, including international fare payments by non-resident tourists to U.S. carriers, reached $95.6 billion in 1999.
  • While Canada and Mexico ranked first and second in terms of arrivals for 1999, Japan ranked first in receipts (14 percent of total receipts for the U.S.), ahead of Canada (8 percent) and Mexico (5 percent).
  • International travel is one of the largest exports for the United States, ranking ahead of agricultural goods, consumer goods, and motor vehicles. It is the second largest service export category, and accounts for 37 percent of all service exports.
  • The United States has continued to produce a travel surplus, generating $14 billion in 1999. The surplus has been produced continuously since 1989, peaking at $26.3 billion in 1996. A surplus occurs when international visitors to the country spend more than U.S. residents who travel abroad.
  • Expenditures by international visitors from other nations in 1999 directly supported 1.1 million jobs in the United States. Payroll revenues generated by international tourism were estimated at over $22 billion for 1999.
  • International tourist generated tax revenues are estimated to have totaled over $11 billion in 1999.
  • On a per capita basis, overseas visitors (which excludes Canada and Mexico) spent about six times as much as their domestic U.S. counterparts for travel in this country in 1999.
  • In 1999 the average overseas visitor's length of stay in this country was just over 15 nights, almost five times as long as the average domestic trip.
  • The top states visited by overseas travelers in 1999 were: California, Florida, New York, Hawaii, and Nevada. Nine states/territories hosted over 1 million visitors in 1999.
  • Favorite destinations for overseas travelers in 1999 were: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, and San Francisco. Ten cities hosted over 1 million visitors in 1999. Top Activities of overseas travelers in 1999 were: Shopping
  • (89 percent), Dining in restaurants (82 percent), Sightseeing in cities (43 percent), Amusement/theme parks (33 percent), Visit historical places (32 percent), Visit small towns/villages (28 percent), Water sports/sunbathing (24 percent), Touring the countryside (23 percent), Visit National Parks (20 percent), Visit art galleries/museums (20 percent), and cultural heritage sites (18 percent).
  • Overseas travelers to the United States are very mobile. On average, in 1999, they visited over 2 destinations. They also took taxis (40 percent), rented cars (34 percent), took a domestic flight (28 percent), used company or private automobile (28 percent), used the city subway/bus (20 percent), took a bus between cities (10 percent), and used rail to see the country (8 percent).
  • Overseas travelers are far more inclined to stay at hotel/motels (82 percent) than do domestic travelers. In 1999 the average number of nights in a hotel/motel was 7.9. Spending on all lodging was the number one expense item for overseas travelers while in the country.
  • There were far more independent overseas travelers (79 percent) visiting the United States than visitors using a travel package (21 percent). Of the package travelers, the most frequent combination of components in the package were air and lodging.
  • Overseas travelers to the country were predominantly repeat visitors (78 percent), with one in five (22 percent) being first time visitors.

Note:   International travelers includes all non-U.S. residents who visit the country.

Note:   Overseas excludes Canada and Mexico.

For more information on the international travel market to the United States, please visit the Tourism Industries web site at:

Source:   U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, Tourism Industries & Bureau of Economic Analysis, May 2000