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May 20, 2003
  Contact: Victoria Park
(202) 482-0310


International visitors to the U.S. should return to peak levels by 2006, according to new figures released today at Pow Wow International by the Commerce Department. The numbers are part of the Department's semi-annual Forecast of International Travel to the United States.

"International visitors are regaining confidence in traveling to the United States," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development Linda Conlin. "This is welcomed news, especially for the many Americans who work in this vital industry. A strong tourism industry will help bring economic growth and jobs all over America."

After two challenging years for the travel and tourism industry, the forecast projects a 22 percent increase from 2002 visitation levels to the year 2006. Although growth will be a modest one percent for 2003, the forecast predicts a seven percent growth rate for 2004 and 2005 with a leveling to a six percent annual increase by 2006. The 51 million international travelers forecasted by 2006 should bring the levels back to the peak numbers of 2000.

Receipts generated by these travelers are estimated to exceed what U.S. travelers spend internationally, continuing to generate a travel trade surplus of nearly $13 billion in 2006.

Key markets responsible for an improved long-term forecast are neighboring trading partners, Canada and Mexico, which are expected to grow by 24 and 21 percent, respectively, over the forecast period.

Visitors from Europe are expected to return noticeably by 2004 and beyond, projected to grow by 23 percent over the forecast period to 10.6 million in 2006. The U.K. will maintain its rank as the top overseas market (up 24 percent), with healthy growth from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands to support the solid European regional performance.

Although Asia=s recovery will be slow, with an estimated two percent decline in 2003, the region is expected to show 18 percent growth (6.7 million visitors) by the end of 2006. Japan, the largest Asian market and second overseas market, is forecasted to reach 4.2 million visitors by 2006 (up 17 percent). A memorandum of understanding signed by Commerce Secretary Don Evans in April 2002 for a public/private partnership supporting a Tourism Export Expansion Initiative with Japan will help spur this growth. Stronger long-term increases are estimated for South Korea (up 19 percent) and China, including Hong Kong, (up 21percent) by 2006 compared to 2002 visitation levels.

Both South America (primarily Brazil) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) are forecasted to expand by 19 percent from 2002 to 2006.

Travel and tourism represents the top services export for the United States and has produced a travel trade surplus since 1989 (over $7 billion in 2002). For more information visit http://tinet.ita.doc.gov.

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