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2012 International Travel and Tourism Shows Record Figures

February 22, 2013

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Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale is the Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services in the International Trade Administration.

For some Americans, the phrase travel and tourism simply brings to mind family road-trips, Caribbean vacations, and foreign tourists at Disneyland. For me it brings to mind the successful business model of economic growth and job creation we support at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

In January of 2012, President Obama charged the Departments of Commerce and Interior with developing and presenting to him a National Travel & Tourism Strategy. The strategy, delivered in May 2012, is the first federal government-wide travel and tourism strategy and is already bearing fruit.

Last year, the travel and tourism industry contributed nearly $1.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP and provided more than 7.5 million jobs for American workers. In 2012, the industry created $168.1 billion worth of U.S. exports, representing a 10 percent growth over last year. Over a two-year period the industry has grown nearly 25 percent. Moreover, as in years past, the travel and tourism industry is the largest service-export industry in the United States.

You may be thinking, how is the spending of an international tourist an “export?”   That such spending is an export is illustrated through the following hypothetical: A Brazilian family travels to Miami for vacation. Upon arrival, the family books several nights in a U.S. hotel. The next morning, the family shops at U.S. retail stores, buys American products, and eats three meals a day at U.S. restaurants. The family pays U.S. taxes with every purchase. The family’s visit is by all accounts a foreign investment in the U.S. economy – and, by extension, a job creator.

Numerous opportunities exist for the continued success of the U.S. travel and tourism industry. Global trends point to increased foreign travel and a growing middle class in Brazil, China, and India. The industry stands poised to achieve even greater growth.

Consider these interesting facts:

  • By 2017, the number of travelers from Brazil, China, and India –as compared to 2011− is expected to grow by 83 percent, 259 percent, and 47 percent, respectively. This represents a total of 4.4 million additional travelers from these three countries by 2017.
  • On average, each tourist that we attract from these areas will spend $4,000 during their stay in the United States.

These facts point to an increase in global tourism that we as a nation must attract and welcome. And that is exactly what we intend to do.

In fact, our strategy sets the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021. These international visitors are projected to spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

Here at the International Trade Administration, we are excited about the wealth of opportunities that lie ahead for our nation’s travel and tourism industry. We have room to grow and we are excited about doing everything we can to support the industry and the millions of America jobs the industry supports.