Skift Take

The U.S. is literally leaving millions of dollars on the table each month that the State Department fails to reduce exploding visa wait times.

The travel spending gap between outbound American travelers and inbound international travelers amounted to $802 million in September, the third month this year with a deficit for the U.S., according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. In May and June, the U.S. also experienced a spending a gap of $800 million.

In September, Americans traveling abroad spent a total of $15.5 billion, while international visitors spent nearly $14.7 billion on travel to and within the U.S., which was an increase of more than 110 percent year over year for this group.

July and August saw a surplus, with inbound travelers spending more than outbound, $900 million and $500 million, respectively.

There remains a significant amount of spending potential by international visitors. In September, total purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors amounted to $7.8 billion, compared to $11.4 billion for the same month in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

A big contributor to the travel spending deficit has been the exploding international tourist visa wait times in the U.S. State Department, with some exceeding a year. In Rio De Janeiro, for example, applicants without a waiver have to wait over 400 days for an interview at the embassy.

The spending gap and visa delays undermines the Biden Administration’s aim to attract 90 million visitors, who will spend $279 billion annually by 2027. The U.S. Travel Association estimates the ongoing visa delays will prevent 6.6 million people from visiting the U.S. next year, amounting to a loss of $12 billion for the American economy.

Year to date, international visitor spending totaled $121.1 billion in the U.S., up more than 106 percent year over year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. That total amount translates into $411 million spending per day in the U.S.


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Tags: brazil, international tourism, spending, visa waiver, visas

Photo credit: The U.S. had a travel spending deficit of $802 million in September. Dimitry Anikin / Unsplash

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