International Visitors Break U.S. Tourism Record

International visitors welcomed to the United States in 2013 gave a record-breaking boost to U.S. travel and tourism, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced February 28.

The nation looks forward to even more international visitors enjoying its parks, beaches and urban centers in 2014 as it continues to improve the processes for entering the United States, according to Pritzker.

International visitors spent $180.7 billion on U.S. travel and tourism–related goods and services in 2013, an increase of more than 9 percent from the record set in 2012.

The United States’ National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which President Obama launched in 2012, charted a new course toward making America a more attractive and accessible destination than ever before. The strategy sets a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors by 2021.

“This president is the first ever to establish a national strategy for increasing travel and tourism here in the U.S., and we clearly have great momentum behind this effort,” Pritzker said in a Commerce Department news release.

In discussing U.S. tourism at a meeting of industry leaders February 28, Pritzker pointed to the success of efforts such as BrandUSA, a public-private partnership that has promoted travel to the United States in eight international markets so far.

Pritzker also noted a presidential executive order that has led to new visa positions and expanded visa processing facilities around the world, with the result that 94 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants worldwide are interviewed within three weeks.

“Wait times in key markets like Brazil, India, China and Mexico are all currently less than 10 days,” Pritzker said, and “in China, wait times have been under five days for the past two years.”

More than 2 million people now have access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs — which provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks — up 60 percent from December 2012, she said. And more than 30 million visitors received Transportation Security Administration “PreCheck” expedited screening as of the end of 2013.

But Pritzker also acknowledged that the rise in international travelers has sometimes resulted in bottlenecks at borders, long wait times and customer service challenges at ports of entry.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Board, she said, recommended that “we must make continued progress on travel facilitation, including sustaining the progress on visa issuance and continuing to improve the entry experience.”

To learn more about U.S. efforts to support the travel and tourism industry, as well as to view additional industry-related statistics, visit the travel and tourism page of the International Trade Administration.

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