First Free Story (1 of 3)

More travel executives get their mission-critical industry news from Skift than any other source on the planet.

Already a member?

Although New York City and Miami have long been among international visitors’ top urban destinations when coming to the U.S., an unexpected city recently made it onto the map.

Houston saw a surprising 22 percent increase in international visitors in 2013, according to data released this week by the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office. Orlando, notable for different reasons, saw a 17 percent increase.

The sharp rise in Houston tourism is being fueled by leisure and business travelers.

Houston’s growing energy and medical sectors are attracting executives from around the world leading to record hotel occupancy numbers from the international market.

“Specifically, this has to do with executives coming in to learn about the latest techniques in fracking, underwater drilling,” explains Visit Houston vice president of international sales and tourism Jorge Franz. “International attendance at most conferences and tradeshows in Houston has also increased to record levels in the last two years.”

On the leisure front, Houston is promoting itself more than ever in Mexico, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Aiding the exponential growth is increased air service.

“In the past 18 months alone, new service has been established between Houston and Beijing, Seoul, Istanbul, Munich, Monterrey and more,” says Franz.

Orlando’s visitor increase is fueled by an influx of travelers from South America and Central America.

Orlando is Florida’s most visited city after Miami and that state as whole saw visitor volume from those markets increase 28 percent.

20 Most Visited Cities

Of the 20 city visitation estimates issued, 17 posted increases versus only nine increases in 2012. Seven of the 17 cities achieved double-digit increases.

In 2013, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Houston, and San Diego all set overseas visitation records as did New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Honolulu.

The 20 U.S. cities most visited by international visitors are as follows:

2013 RankCity2013 Market Share2013 Visitation (000)Volume Change Over 2012 (%)
1.New York City29.99,5795%
3.Los Angeles – Long Beach11.83,78111%
5.San Francisco9.53,0449%
6.Las Vegas8.92,8515%
8.Washington, DC5.31,698-3 %
11.San Diego2.68338%
15.Flagstaff – Grand Canyon – Sedona1.75452%
16.Anaheim – Santa Ana1.54811%
18.Tampa – St. Petersburg1.44498%
19.Dallas – Plano -Irving1.44498%
20.San Jose1.34160%
Photo Credit: A view of Houston's skyline. Getty Images