International visitors to the U.S. up 4% in first half of 2015

Canadians seem to have lost interest in visiting the U.S., but the Chinese and South Koreans can't get enough of our tourist hot spots, like Disneyland, the Grand Canyon and New York's Times Square.

Those are some of the conclusions from the latest visitor data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the agency that tracks the number of visitors traveling in and out of the U.S.

Overall, the number of visitors traveling to the U.S. in the first six months of 2015 grew to 36 million, an increase of 4% over the same period in 2014, according to the federal agency. The biggest percentage increases came from South Korea, with a 20% jump, and China, with an 18% increase.

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Our neighbors to the north, Canada, sent only 10 million visitors in the first six months, a 6% drop compared with the same period of 2014, according to the latest data. Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, sent 8.4 million visitors, an 8% increase, the data said.

The data released Monday does not offer an explanation for the increases and declines, but a drop in oil prices and a slump in Canadian currency compared with the U.S. dollar may explain why Canadians are cutting back on travel to the U.S.

Meanwhile, China's economy has been red hot until a few months ago when a slowdown began to worry economists about the ripple effect on the rest of the world's economy. The burgeoning middle class in China has been traveling to the U.S. in big numbers to spend their disposable income at theme parks and outlet malls. 

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Tourism from South Korea may be on the rise because South Koreans continue to visit family members in Los Angeles, which is home to about 160,000 residents of Korean origin, according to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.


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