WASHINGTON ? International travel to the United States jumped 8.1% in 2011 from a year earlier, a positive reversal after several years of less-than-stellar numbers of visitors. The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, contributing $1.4 trillion in economic activity and 7.5 million jobs in 2011. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on travel and tourism that directed federal agencies to aggressively expand the nation?s ability to attract and welcome visitors, while maintaining the highest standards of security. Last week, the White House released a progress report from the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security that outlines the activities underway to meet the president?s goal of boosting the travel and tourism industry in the United States.
The National Travel and Tourism Strategy has ways to bolster job creation through a range of activities to better promote the United States as a tourism destination and make it easier for legitimate foreign travelers to spend their money in the United States, while enhancing our ability to protect Americans from national security threats.
?Every year, tens of millions of tourists come from all over the world to visit America. That?s good for business, it?s good for the economy, and it?s good for our country,? said Obama. ?I?m glad we?re making progress and I?ll continue to do whatever I can to strengthen the travel and tourism industry and create an economy that?s built to last.?
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $153 billion in U.S. exports in 2011, an 8.1% increase from 2010, and is the nation?s largest service export industry. This positive trend has continued throughout 2012 with international tourists spending $13.7 billion in the United States in July 2012 alone, up $350 million (3%) from the same month the previous year, and travel and tourism-related exports increasing, on average, more than $1.1 billion a month during the first seven months of 2012.
Canada and Mexico remain our greatest sources of international visitors, with Mexico visitors accounting for a 33% increase in visas and border crossing cards January through August 2012 over the same period in 2011.