Meeting Mentor Magazine

January 2018

U.S. Sees Decline in International Visitors

International visitors to the U.S. dipped 3.9 percent for the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, according to new figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. An estimated 33.8 million nonresident international travelers entered the U.S. between January and June 2017.

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The report showed declines in arrivals from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The biggest drop was a nearly 30 percent decline in visitors from the Middle East compared to the first six months of 2016. Mexican visitors dropped 9.4 percent in the same interval. With a 5 percent increase, Canada was the only region that sent more visitors to the U.S. in the first half of 2017 compared with 2016.

Earlier this year, travel and hospitality industry leaders voiced concerns that President Donald Trump’s travel bans, anti-foreigner rhetoric and immigration policies could lead to a drop in international visitors. Another possible factor in the decline is the strength of the U.S. dollar against other currencies.

“The latest government travel data is deeply concerning not just to our industry, but to anyone who cares about the economic well-being of the United States,” Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement. “Travel is our country’s No. 2 export and supports more than 15 million American jobs. These numbers are an undeniable wake-up call, and correcting this troubling trend needs to become a national priority. The travel industry will turn over every stone looking for all available policy options to better promote the U.S. as an international destination, and we stand ready to partner with the federal government to grow travel and American jobs and exports along with it.”

NYC & Company also released a statement regarding the drop in international visitation. “As the nation’s No. 1 destination for overseas travel with a nearly 30 percent market share, New York City has been astutely attuned to this vulnerability for quite some time,” said NYC & Company CEO Fred Dixon. The city has launched several promotions around the world to try to counter what Dixon described as the country’s “vulnerability.” He said tourism in New York City generates $64 billion in economic impact and supports 383,000 jobs. “Our prediction for this year is that NYC could lose up to 100,000 international visitors, the first drop in international tourism since 2009.” 

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Earlier in the year, Department of Commerce data showed that 697,791 fewer foreigners visited the United States for the first three months of 2017 compared to the same interval in 2016, a 4.2 percent dip to 15.8 million. According to Tourism Economics, that drop represents a loss of nearly $2.7 billion in spending, The New York Times reports.

The full metrics of inbound travel to the U.S. this year won’t be known until well into 2018. — Regina McGee

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