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July 28, 08

NEWS / Record Number of Overseas Visitors Coming to United States


Record Number of Overseas Visitors Coming to United States

Visitors experience America and bring abundant benefits

By Victoria Colette Reynolds
Special Correspondent

Washington -- Despite increasing airfares due to rising fuel prices, record numbers of international travelers are coming to America.

It’s a bargain for people outside the United States to come here. Hotel room rates in New York, for example, are up 11 percent in dollar terms, but only a mere 1.5 percent increase when calculated in euros, according to Bobby Bowers of Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

“Once you’re here, in terms of staying in a hotel, it’s cheap,” Bowers said. “Alternatively, for those traveling from the U.K. to Paris, [they] won’t find the value [they would] get by going to places like Orlando [Florida] or [Washington] D.C.”

“Hotels, attractions, timeshares and visitor bureaus we touch in our day-to-day client-service work would tell you that business growth from overseas travelers has been ‘euphoric’ over the last five years,” said Scott Berman, a hospitality expert at professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers. “This international inbound has been an absolute economic engine, and without our international inbound tourist, there would be negative growth [in the tourism industry].”

In 2007, the United States welcomed nearly 56 million foreign visitors, 10 percent more than the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Anecdotal evidence says summer 2008 is witnessing an even larger influx of foreign tourists than summer 2007, the strongest summer on record.

Popular destinations include New York; Los Angeles; Miami; San Francisco; Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Washington; Chicago; and Boston.

In Los Angeles’ Hollywood district, visitors aren’t just skipping along the Walk of Fame. They’re scrambling to Universal Studios’ new iFLY and Simpsons rides, according to Bill Karz, spokesman for LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In Miami, where Spanish is spoken as much as English, there are tourist activities for any size wallet, Berman said.

Visitors are coming in greater numbers from Latin America, Russia and Eastern Europe, especially to Florida. “You’re seeing not only Aeroflot, the Russian airline, flying to North America, but also structured tours that move Russian tourists by charter,” Berman said. Disney World, near Orlando, is a big draw, along with beach resorts from Palm Beach to Miami.

Typically, tourists from almost every country in Europe flock to New York and Florida, and the Asian market flies to Hawaii and California on the West Coast. But recently, Los Angeles saw an increase in visitors from the United Kingdom and peaks in visitors from Germany and France.
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Chinese tour Universal Studios (LA Inc.)
A Universal Studios representative presents Hollywood Walk of Fame stars to officials in the first group tour from China.
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Chinese tour Universal Studios (LA Inc.)
A Universal Studios representative presents Hollywood Walk of Fame stars to officials in the first group tour from China.

More than ever, the United States attracts international travelers due to the weakened American dollar. Manhattan, Hollywood, Disney World and Universal Studios are places that Europeans have read about, looked at on the Internet, and now, can afford more easily.

TOURS FROM CHINA

Under a June 17 memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Commerce Department and the China National Tourism Administration, Chinese leisure travelers are now able to visit America in group tours. The Commerce Department projects that these groups will bring about 300,000 Chinese travelers annually, a number expected to double by 2011. China has approved the National Tour Association, based in Lexington, Kentucky, to certify American tour operators to work with the Chinese coming to America.

“We’ve certified 160 companies to date,” said Bob Hoelscher, the organization’s chairman and chief executive.

Chinese citizens spend more during their stay than do travelers from other countries. In 2006, average spending by Chinese visitors was more than $6,000 per person, per trip.

ECONOMIC BOON FOR U.S. CITIES

Overall, international tourists spent $122 billion on travel to and within the United States in 2007, a 13 percent increase from the year before.

International visitors spend, on average, nearly $2,200 during a visit. American stores are a big draw. The Commerce Department reports that nearly 90 percent of international travelers make shopping their first priority. “They come here not just to see things, but also to fill their suitcases and take things home. And they’re coming over in droves because, basically, everything here is half price,” Hoelscher said.

New York is America’s No. 1 port of entry for foreign travelers, and visitors from abroad account for more than half of the city’s $28 billion tourism industry. The international visitor stays longer and spends more money than American visitors, according to Christopher Heywood, a spokesman for NYC and Company, the city’s tourism organization.

“The economic impact of this tourism … is very important to our economy,” Berman said. “This applies to the entire seaboard of the U.S., both Atlantic and Pacific.”

But he and other analysts look anxiously toward the next six months. “When I talk to my colleagues in Europe, clearly the weakening economy is catching up to them over there,” Berman said. “In this industry, if not for foreign tourism, it would be a much weaker picture.”

Source: http://www.america.gov/st/econ-english/2008/July/20080725142833berehellek0.5649835.html?CP.rss=true

 




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