International tourists continue to spend record amounts in the U.S. and are on pace to top the previous annual high mark in tourist expenditures set in 2008, according to new data from the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
A monthly report by the federal agency, which is part of the Commerce Department, said international visitors spent $13.1 billion on travel to the U.S. and tourism-related activities while here in October, a 13% increase over the same month last year.
About $10 billion of that total came from spending on hotels, food, souvenirs and other expenses after visitors arrived in the U.S.
Foreign visitors spent $127 billion in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2011. Meanwhile, the total spent by Americans traveling abroad reached $91.9 billion in the first 10 months, an 8% increase over the same period in 2010, the agency reported. The result is a balance-of-trade surplus of $35 billion for the U.S.
The agency, which released the report Tuesday, predicted that international tourism spending will surpass $152 billion for 2011, up from the previous record of $141 billion in 2008.
Four countries are expected to account for two-thirds of the projected growth in international visitation to the U.S. over the next five years. About 31% of the growth will come from Canada, 13% from Mexico, 10% from China and 7% from Brazil, the agency said.
The U.S. Travel Assn., the nation’s largest travel trade group, recently pushed the federal government to adopt changes to make it easier for international tourists to visit the U.S. The group recommended speeding up the process for getting tourist visas and expanding the program that waives the visa requirement for more countries.
“Research shows that U.S. visa system reform would bring additional international business and leisure travelers to the U.S., creating additional jobs and economic output for our struggling economy,” the trade group said in a statement this month.