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TI News: An information service from the National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO)

December 17, 2014

New Restructured and Revised Travel & Tourism Export & Import Estimates 1999-2013

The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), has updated its website to provide the new restructured and revised travel and tourism export and import estimates for 1999-2013 as issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

The impact of these revisions now means that international travel exports for the U.S. totaled $214.8 billion in 2013, up 7% over 2012. For total travel and tourism imports, the new estimates show $136.7 billion spent by U.S. residents traveling abroad in 2013, up 5% over 2012. This results in a new record travel surplus of $78.1 billion.

The estimates now available provide more detail than was previously possible. The new data is the result of BEA’s work that started in 2009 when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6), which included a definitional change for ‘travel’ and the trade of travel-related goods and services. This is the most extensive restructuring since 1976, and was implemented in an effort to bring the U.S.’s international accounts into closer conformity with international guidelines and make them more comparable to other country’s estimates. The revisions affect all travel and tourism export and import estimates for 1999-2013 and into the future. BEA released top line information in June 2014, and the regional and country details in late October 2014. Estimates are provided for 34 countries and selected world regions.

So what exactly has changed with regards to travel and tourism-related statistics?

Spending by U.S. travelers going abroad and non-resident visitors to the United States for education, medical, and as temporary workers have been added to the “travel” export and import estimates. Additionally, there are now breakouts for business and personal travel exports and imports.

New Travel Export Estimates:

On the travel export side, of the $214.8 billion, $173.1 billion was for travel purposes and $41.6 billion was for passenger fares, now called transport - air passengers. There are additional breakdowns for the travel spending but monthly and annual data breakouts are slightly different. On an annual basis for 2013, personal travel exports totaled $133.7 billion, up 10% over 2012. Under personal spending, the “other” category is the largest at $103.2 billion, up 10%, educational travel exports were $27.2 billion, up 10%, and health-related exports totaled $3.3 billion, up 4%. Business travel exports were $39.4 billion, with almost no change from 2012. Temporary workers accounted for $7 billion of this category, and the remaining export spending was list as “other” which includes all other reasons for travel.

New 10-year timelines for travel exports are available on the NTTO website for 2004-2013. With the greater detail provided on services exports for the United States, total travel and tourism exports - the sum of travel and transport air passenger exports is by far the largest service export for the United States. Travel is now 31% of all services exports and 9% of all goods and services exports. With the revisions, travel exports are larger than our agricultural, automotive and consumer goods exports.

The combined personal and business travel category generated $135.6 billion in total travel and tourism exports in 2013, up 7%. The top countries in rank order for this subset were: Canada, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. China posted the fastest growth among the top 5, up 14%.

Education travel exports totaled $27.2 billion in 2013, up 10%. The top countries for educational travel exports in rank order in 2013 were: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

Country level travel exports data are available for 34 countries, as well as limited world region estimates. On the export side, total travel and tourism exports, the sum of travel and transport air passenger exports, show that Canada ($27.9 billion, up 5% over 2012) remains the top travel export market for the United States. With the addition of education, medical and temporary worker spending to the estimates, there were changes among the remaining countries. China moved to the number two spot at $21.1 billion, up 16% over 2012. Mexico is now third, generating $18.1 billion, up 5%. Mexico accounts for the largest share of the temporary worker spending. Japan is now ranked fourth at $17.6 billion, up 3%. The United Kingdom rounds out the top five for travel exports at $13.2 billion, but was down 1% compared to 2012. The top 10 travel exports can be seen in three reports that have been revised for 2013. To see the top 10 markets and the impact of international travel to the U.S. for 2013, you are encouraged to view the following three reports:

  1. Top 10 International Markets (this report provides both arrivals and spending along with a little text outlining changes and shares. It is also known as the “flags” report). Go to: http://travel.trade.gov/pdf/2013-Top-10-Markets.pdf
  2. Fast Facts 2013 (this report provides top-line information for the total impact of travel on the United States and serves as a quick reference to the impact of travel to the U.S.). Go to: http://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/Fast_Facts_2013.pdf
  3. Key Facts About International Travel and Tourism to the United States (this report provides top-line information on just international travel to the United States in 2013). Go to: http://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/Key_Facts_2013.pdf

New Travel Import Estimates:

2013 travel imports totaled $136.7 billion, of which $104.7 was for travel purposes and $32.0 billion was for passenger fares, now called transport - air passengers. In 2013, personal travel imports totaled $83.4 billion, up 4% over 2012. Under personal spending, the “other” category is the largest at $75.5 billion, up 4%, educational travel imports were $6.5 billion, up 6%, and health-related imports totaled $1.4 billion, up 13%. Business travel imports were $21.2 billion, up 6% from 2012. Temporary workers accounted for $1.2 billion of this category, and the remaining import spending was for “other travelers which is business and pleasure.” Timelines for travel imports are available for 2004-2013.

Another major section of the 2013 inbound and outbound travel section of the NTTO website is the 10 Year historical spending timelines. It is the best place to find the latest estimates for traveler spending. Here the 34 country timelines for both travel exports and imports, as well as eight regional breakouts are provided for 2004-2013. Additional total travel spending timelines are provided for 1960-2013 using the old method, along with the new 1999-2013 total travel exports and imports estimates. Here can also be found links to additional information on the BEA revisions and a two-page summary of the changes. A link to the monthly total travel export and imports estimates may also be found on this page. The other data revised for 2013 were the regional and country profiles in which the new spending estimates were added. There were 19 country profiles revised for 2006-2013 and three regional profiles updated with the latest data. To see these profiles, go to: http://travel.trade.gov/outreachpages/inbound.general_information.inbound_overview.html

With the spending data revisions going back to 1999, all users should know that on the NTTO website any spending data from 1999-2012 has been revised by BEA, but not on the hundreds of documents on the website. For any spending estimates, please go to the 10 Year historical spending timelines website page for the most current data. Our office will also work to provide the 1999-2013 spending estimates as well for each of the countries and regions, although this will take time. NTTO staff is also looking into better ways to illustrate the travel export and import data to make it more useful to users. If you have any questions, or need additional information related to these changes, please contact the National Travel and Tourism Office at: ntto@trade.gov

The NTTO is in the process of developing a FAQ for the spending changes, and questions received will be considered for inclusion on this page as well.


U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Mail Stop 10003, Washington, DC 20230; Phone:(202) 482-0140; Fax: (202) 482-2887; Website: http://travel.trade.gov; Email: NTTO@trade.gov