1998 Monthly Tourism
     Related Summary Tables
1998 International Arrivals to the United States - Annual

The United States hosted 46.4 million international visitors in 1998. This was nearly a three percent decline from 1997. Considerable economic issues in Asia and Canada with some effects from the volatility in South America and a sluggish economy in Europe all significantly contributed to the decline in arrivals to the U.S. in 1998.

Canada's weak economy and a poor exchange rate reflected an 11 percent decline, registered in 1998, the lowest visitation from Canada since 1987. Despite the decline, Canada still remains the largest single market for the United States, accounting for more than 13 million visitors in 1998.

Mexican visitation continued to have positive growth in 1998, up ten percent and accounted for over 9 million visits to the U.S. Those Mexican visitors traveling to the U.S. by air only increased by nine percent and totaled 1.4 million visitors in 1998, making Mexican air arrivals the fifth largest market to the United States.

Overseas arrivals (excluding Mexicans and Canadians) to the United States totaled 23.7 million in 1998, representing a two percent decline from the record arrivals set in 1997 (24.2 million). The Asian economic crisis was a major factor in the overseas decline with arrivals from this world region down more than thirteen percent, nearly double the projected decline. Growth in select markets in Europe and South America helped minimize the drop in total overseas arrivals.

The performance of travel from Asia was significantly affected by a severe contraction in Japanese arrivals to the U.S. Japanese arrivals fell by more than nine percent, a clear reflection of the economic crisis which reared in early Fall of 1997. Both South Korean and Taiwanese arrivals also showed major declines compared to what had been projected in October, 1998. South Korea was projected to be down by forty percent but the arrivals sunk even lower to fifty one percent for the year. Taiwan was down thirteen percent for the year or down nearly twice the projected arrivals in October. The bright spot in Asia was India which accounted for over 210,000 visitors to the U.S., up 22% from 1997 year end arrivals. Mainland China (PRC) and Hong Kong experienced smaller declines than projected, with nearly a half a million visitors between them (209,000 and 213,000, respectively, in 1998).

Conversely, Western European visitor arrivals in 1998 continued to grow (up 3%), albeit at a slower rate than in 1997 (up 7%). Despite Germany's economic downturn in 1998, four of the top five Western European markets set an all time record for arrivals in 1998. The United Kingdom continued to grow (up nearly 7%) and almost reached a milestone of 4 million visitor arrivals in 1998, gaining ground on Japan which holds the number one overseas visitation slot. Germany's economic ties with South-East Asia and a cut back in the worlds need for machinery and equipment (a major portion of Germany's exports) all contributed to the 5 percent decline in the number of arrivals to the U.S. for 1998. Arrivals from France exceeded expectations by increasing nearly four percent and topping the one million visitor mark for the first time. Another record in 1998 was from the five percent gain in Italian visitors, topping with 611,000. Arrivals from both the Netherlands and Sweden had positive growth (up nearly 4% and 3% respectively) and also set a new arrival record.

Visitation from South America at nearly 3 million (4% increase) performed better than projected in nearly all markets, despite Brazil's economic downturn and weakened Real to the U.S. dollar. In 1998 over 900,000 Brazilians visited the United States. Arrivals from Brazil were forecast to be down as much as eight percent, yet the year end results are showed a contraction of only three percent from 1997. Two of the major markets in South America outperformed the projected growth in arrivals released by Tourism Industries in October 1998. Colombia was up nearly 16% in 1998 over 1997. Venezuela's visitation level displayed double digit growth, up eleven percent for the year and at 541,000, surpassed the record level held in 1982 (532,000). Countering the affects of the Brazilian downturn, Argentina showed a 4 percent growth in arrivals for 1998.

Oceania, with Australia and New Zealand, in particular, were affected by the Asian economic crisis, down eight percent and three percent, respectively. Other factors, such as the drop in the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar (nearly 17% since 1997), cheap packages to Asia, and extremely low air fares to Europe all contributed to nearly an eight percent decline in Australian visitation to the U.S. in 1998.

Central America accounted for nearly 700,000 visitor arrivals to the U.S. in 1998 with solid double digit growth for this world region, up twenty-four percent. Three countries reflected this growth: Guatemala, up 22%; Costa Rica, up 19%; and El Salvador, up nearly 46%.

Eastern European visitation sustained positive growth for most of 1998, up nearly five percent for the year, despite a slight one percent downturn in the fourth quarter. Overall, Eastern European arrivals reached a record level with over 400,000 visitors in 1998.

Arrivals from the Caribbean decreased by two percent in 1998, but still accounted for nearly 1.2 million arrivals to the U.S. African arrivals registered double digit growth in 1998, up more than ten percent to 258,000. The Middle East outperformed most other regions in terms of growth, as well, up nearly seven percent to 587,000.