International travel had another banner year in 2015, but given currency challenges and uncertainties such as the Brexit vote, the odds are against a repeat performance in terms of international visitor arrivals in 2016.
The year 2015 was the first that overseas arrivals to the U.S., or those excluding Canada and Mexico, made up nearly 50 percent of all international visitors as markets such as China continued to increase their market share.
The 77.5 million international visitors to the U.S. in 2015, a 3 percent increase over the previous year, is a record according to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The agencies released 2015 international visitor arrival estimates this week. Overseas arrivals, or those excluding Canada and Mexico, increased by 10 percent over 2014.
Some 49.5 percent of all international arrivals to the U.S. last year were from countries besides Canada and Mexico. That’s due in part to Canada’s market share decreasing four percentage points since 2014, dropping from 23 million visitors in 2014 to 20 million last year (a 10 percent decrease).
Canada and Mexico are still the largest visitor markets overall, sending a combined 39 million visitors to the U.S. last year.
Arrivals from South Korea, the UK, and mainland China increased 21, 18, and 18 percent, respectively, and these three countries alone have 10 percent of the market share in the U.S. There were 38.3 million international arrivals from these countries and arrivals from Western Europe and Asia both grew by 12 percent year-over-year, a sign that visitors from China and other Asian markets have growing interest in traveling further afield to markets like the U.S.
New York City was the most-visited city by international travelers with 6.6 million arrivals in 2015, an 11 percent increase. Of the 15 U.S. cities with the most international arrivals, four — Miami, Honolulu, Washington, D.C. and Newark, New Jersey (a New York City airport) — saw only single digit increases in their arrivals, although all except Newark still had more arrivals than 2014.
2016 May Be Very Different
This is all in contrast to what’s happening in 2016, with weak currencies compared with the U.S. dollar and several unstable financial markets causing fewer international travelers to visit the U.S. so far this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
U.S. Travel sees domestic U.S. leisure travel as the ticket to helping offset the decline in international visitor arrivals and spending so far in 2016. “[U.S.] domestic leisure travel is, and will continue to be, a primary source of growth for the travel industry moving forward,” said David Huether, U.S. Travel’s senior vice president for research, in a statement.
“This strength will be necessary to prop up U.S. travel growth, given the near-term outlook indicating deceleration in international inbound travel during the second half of this year.”
While international inbound arrivals in June grew more than domestic arrivals across the U.S., the first time in more than a year that this happened according to U.S. Travel, the association still predicts international visits will be weak for the rest of 2016.
Top Overseas Markets For International Arrivals to the U.S. in 2015
|Overseas Market||Number of Arrivals in 2015||Percent Change From 2014|
|Mainland China (excludes Hong Kong)||2.5M||18%|
|Total Overseas Visits (All Markets)||38.3M||10%|
Top U.S. Cities For International Arrivals in 2015
|City||Number of Arrivals in 2015||Percent Change From 2014|
|New York City||6.6M||11%|
|Newark, New Jersey*||1.7M||-5%|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida||880K||30%|
*Newark’s arrivals should be considered part of New York City’s overseas tourist arrivals.
Source: U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office and U.S. Department of Commerce
Photo credit: Travelers ride Citi Bikes along a beach in Miami. International travel to the U.S. had another record year in 2015 with 77.5 million visitors. Dan Peltier / Skift