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It’s great to see the U.S. finally recognizing tourism for the economic powerhouse that it is, but the government will need invest even more in speeding visa and customs wait times as the world’s newest travelers become more experienced and selective.
International visitors to the United States spent a record-breaking $180.7 billion on travel-related goods, services, and airfares in 2013, according to data released today by the National Travel & Tourism Office.
Tourism receipts increased 9 percent since 2012 and average monthly spend rose by $1.3 billion.
Money spent on food, lodging, recreation, entertainment, and local transportation accounts for the majority, or $139.6 billion, of the record-breaking receipts. This is an 11-percent increase over 2012.
The other $41.2 billion represents fares received by U.S. carriers, a 5 percent increase over last year’s record $39.4 billion in receipts.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker takes the spending hike as a sign that President Obama’s national strategy for increasing tourism, outlined in 2012, is working. And that the U.S. is on its way to reaching its goal of 100 million international visitors by 2021.
But it’s largely factors outside of U.S. control that are attracting new travelers.
It is growing middle class economies in countries like Brazil and China that are allowing more people to travel the world. And the United States’ position as global leader and its prevalence in pop culture has more do with these visitors’ interest than Rosanne Cash singing for BrandUSA.
The U.S. government will have to continue making it easier for travelers from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East to visit if it wishes to reach its 100-million visitor goal.