The U.S. tourism industry is on track for a record-setting year in 2012

Dec 05, 2012 12:17 am

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Visitor spending is trending upwards each year due to a growing demographic of wealthy BRIC tourists, but it’s too soon to say if Brand USA’s global marketing campaign played any role.

— Samantha Shankman

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Segway tours are a popular option for tourists visiting Washington, DC. Wendy Harmon / Flickr.com

Spending by international visitors to the U.S. continues to rise, setting a record in September.

Foreign visitors spent $13.9 billion traveling to and visiting the U.S. in September, a 4% increase over the previous record for the month, $13.4 billion in September 2011, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Spending by international visitors has been growing steadily the last three years, with tourists from China, Brazil, Australia, South Korea and a few other countries generating the biggest boost in revenue.

In September, foreign visitors spent about $10.7 billion on hotels, food, gifts and other expenses in the U.S. An additional $3.2 billion or so was spent on airfares and other transportation costs.

The spending is on pace to break last year’s record.

International visitors spent $152.7 billion in 2011, a 14% increase over 2010, according to federal data.

In the first nine months of 2012, foreign visitors had already spent $123 billion, up 8% from the same period in 2011, according to the Commerce Department.

“The U.S. tourism industry is on pace for yet another record-setting year and represents our fastest growing private services export sector through the first three quarters of 2012,” Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez said in a statement.

Travel experts attribute the increase in visitor spending to a growth in affluent travelers from China, Brazil and other countries with relatively stable economies, and the removal of travel barriers into the U.S.

To draw even more visitors, the U.S. travel industry this year helped launch a $150-million media campaign, the first coordinated effort to promote the country to foreign travelers. The campaign features an anthem called “Land of Dreams,” performed by singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash.

In January, President Obama announced plans to make it easier for international visitors to travel to the U.S., partly by accelerating the visa process for travelers from China and Brazil.

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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