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International Visitation Sets New Record


The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that a record 58 million international visitors traveled to the United States during 2008, an increase of nearly four percent over 2007. Thirteen of the top 25 arrivals markets broke records set in previous years. In December 2008, the total monthly visitation reached 3.9 million. 

Arrivals to the United States in 2008 reflected a shift between the first nine months of the year and the fourth quarter. For the first nine months, 17 of the top 20 arrivals markets posted increases in arrivals. Canada was growing at a double-digit rate, but Mexican arrivals were in decline. Overseas arrivals (all countries except Canada and Mexico) were up nine percent through the first nine months of 2008, and only two world regions posted declines through September 2008.

During the fourth quarter of 2008, however, a shift took place in arrivals to the United States. During the last quarter of the year, only 12 of the top 20 countries posted growth. Both Canada and Mexico posted declines in arrivals and all overseas markets declined by almost three percent. Of the nine world regions tracked each month, five posted declines in arrivals.

With this shift among some of the top U.S. markets, OTTI would like to encourage the industry to watch the developments for U.S. arrivals by returning to the monthly arrivals page on OTTI’s website at:

A few other tools to assist the industry understand the changes in 2009 include: 

In May 2009, OTTI will be disseminating an annual forecast for U.S. arrivals for 2009 and the next few years. The Travel Trade Barometer program, which provides a short term forecast for arrivals from the Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, and Germany markets, will also be available. To learn more about these programs, go to:

The monthly arrivals data, the Barometer program, and forecast data for top markets should provide the industry with sufficient information to track and analyze shifts in U.S. arrivals.

HIGHLIGHTS: 2008 International Arrivals1 to the United States

In 2008, Canadian visitation totaled 18.9 million, up seven percent for the year and driven by land arrivals, which were up six percent. At the same time, air arrivals increased by eight percent. 

Arrivals from Mexico totaled 13.8 million, decreasing four percent in 2008 compared to 2007. Air arrivals were down nine percent for the year.
Overseas arrivals (excluding Canada and Mexico) totaled 25.3 million, up six percent for the year, but were still two percent below the record set in 2000.
Although arrivals were down two percent from 2000, the last record year, they have increased 33 percent from 2003, the post-9/11 low in arrivals to the United States.

U.S. Visitation from Western Europe, 12.2 million visitors, was up 12 percent for the year and accounted for 48 percent of overseas arrivals. In December 2008, travelers from Western Europe were down three percent. 

New records were set in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway. 

Arrivals from the United Kingdom were down 14 percent in December but up more than one percent for the year. Visitors from the United Kingdom accounted for 37 percent of all Western European arrivals. 

In 2008, German arrivals increased 17 percent, French arrivals grew 25 percent, and Italian arrivals were up 23 percent, continuing growth trends from 2007. Also in 2008, visitation from the Netherlands grew 20 percent. At the same time, visitors from Spain and Ireland grew 27 percent and eight percent, respectively. Arrivals from Sweden and Switzerland were up 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively, for the year. Only Ireland and the United Kingdom posted declines among the top 15 Western European arrivals markets for the fourth quarter of 2008. All the other countries registered increases in arrivals, although at a slower rate. 

Visitation from Asia decreased three percent in 2008, but still accounted for 24 percent of overseas arrivals. Japanese arrivals decreased eight percent in 2008, accounting for 53 percent of all Asian visitors for the year. In 2008, arrivals from South Korea decreased six percent. Taiwanese visitation decreased five percent in 2008. 

The emerging markets, India and the People’s Republic of China, grew six percent and 24 percent respectively. India and China both set new arrivals records in 2008. 

Arrivals from South America, accounting for 10 percent of overseas arrivals, were up 12 percent in 2008. Year-to-date, double-digit growth in visitation was recorded from Brazil (+20%), Venezuela (+11%), and Argentina (+19%). From South America, top arrivals were from Brazil accounted for 30 percent of all arrivals from the region. Colombia set a new record for the year, posting an eight percent growth rate for the year.
Visitation from the Caribbean area decreased nine percent in 2008. In 2008, there was a 14 percent decrease in arrivals from the Dominican Republic, the top arrivals market from this region. 

Travel from Oceania increased two percent in 2008. Australian arrivals registered a three percent expansion for the year, which meant it set a new arrivals record in 2008. In 2008, Australia accounted for 81 percent of all arrivals from Oceania.
Central American arrivals in 2008 were down one percent when compared to 2007. 

Arrivals from the Middle East increased 10 percent in 2008.  In 2008, Israel’s visitation increased six percent, allowing this market to also set a new arrivals record. 

Eastern European arrivals grew 14 percent in 2008. Polish arrivals were up six percent over 2007, and Russian visitation increased 25 percent. Both countries set arrivals records in 2008. 

African visitation was up 14 percent for the year. 

Overall, for the first nine months of 2008, 40 of the top 50 countries posted increases in arrivals, 23 of these countries were growing at a double-digit growth rate when compared to the first nine months of 2007. Then, during the fourth quarter 2008, growth in arrivals to the United States was only registered by 27 of the top 50 arrivals markets and only 11 countries posted double-digit growth in the fourth quarter. This means that for 2008, 37 of the top 50 arrivals markets posted growth rates when compared to 2007, and 20 of these countries ended the year with double-digit growth when compared to annual 2007 arrivals.

To access the 2008 annual and monthly arrivals data for world regions and top markets, visit

TOP PORTS: Year-to-Date December 2008

In 2008, overseas arrivals (excluding Canada and Mexico) were up six percent. Arrivals through the top 15 ports of entry accounted for 84 percent of all overseas arrivals, nearly one percent higher than last year.

Thirteen of the top fifteen ports posted increases in arrivals in 2008. Arrivals increased by double digits through six of the ports. Arrivals through San Francisco and Chicago increased eight percent and four percent, respectively, moving them into fifth and sixth positions ahead of Honolulu, which experienced a 10 percent decline in arrivals. Atlanta, increasing 13 percent, moved into eighth place, just ahead of Agana, Guam. Houston, increasing 11 percent, moved into 12th place, ahead of Boston and Detroit. Arrivals through Philadelphia grew 26 percent as it climbed into the 15th spot; registering the largest growth among the top 15 ports of entry.

To access top port activity, go to the OTTI monthly arrivals page above and scroll down the page until you see the yellow title bar entitled: 2008 Monthly Top Airports for Overseas Non-Resident Arrivals. Click on the Excel file to view the monthly port figures.

Arrivals to the United States by port-of-entry are tracked on a monthly basis. The U.S. Department of Commerce has arrival data on more than 40 U.S. ports-of-entry from all world regions and 30 countries, with a brief analysis presented on the top 15 ports for overseas arrivals during 2008.


The monthly Summary of International Travel to the U.S. report has approximately 30 tables that provide data on monthly and year-to-date arrivals to the United States. The report provides data on approximately 90 countries each month and more than 40 ports of entry. Numerous breakouts are provided by world region and country for the port tables as well.

U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration
Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI)
1401 Constitution Avenue N.W., Room 1003
Washington, D.C.  20230
Phone: (202) 482-0140, Fax: (202) 482-2887

See Also: Tourists still Flocking to the US

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