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Travel abroad declined 3 percent in 2009


The overall U.S. outbound market totaled 61.5 million in 2009, down 3 percent compared to 2008. Travel to overseas regions declined two percent, while travel to Mexico and Canada declined 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, the top five countries in 2009, measured by U.S. visitation, were: Mexico (19.5 million), Canada (11.7 million), the United Kingdom (2.7 million), France (1.9 million) and Italy (1.8 million).

Nine of the top 10 destinations visited by U.S. travelers posted declines in 2009.

In contrast, in 2009, U.S. travelers set records for travel to the regions of Africa and the Middle East, and to the countries of Greece, Dominican Republic, Israel and India.

Spending by U.S. residents traveling abroad (imports) totaled $99.2 billion, down 12 percent from 2008. Spending within foreign countries (travel payments) amounted to $73.2 billion, down 8 percent, and spending on air transportation, via foreign air carriers (passenger fare payments), totaled $26.0 billion in 2009, down 20 percent.

Top countries for U.S. spending included Mexico ($9.6 billion), the United Kingdom ($7.8 billion), Canada ($6.2 billion), Japan ($4.8 billion) and Germany ($4.6 billion).

Top Outbound Destination Markets


Mexico was the top U.S. international destination again in 2009 with 19.5 million travelers, down four percent from 2008. Longer haul travel, by air, declined 11 percent from 2008. Travel to Mexico has fluctuated over the last 10 years. The strongest growth periods were in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2008. Spending by U.S. travelers to Mexico totaled $9.6 billion, down 14 percent from 2008 which was a record year.


Canada continues to be the second most visited destination by U.S. international travelers. In 2009, 11.7 million U.S. travelers visited our northern neighbor, albeit seven percent down from 2008. Longer haul travel, by air, was down nine percent. Canadian travelers to the U.S. exceeded U.S. travelers to Canada again in 2009 for the fifth successive year since 1998. The peak year for U.S. travel to Canada was in 2002 with 16.2 million U.S. outbound travelers. Since then, U.S. travel to Canada has declined six of the last eight years. Spending by U.S. travelers to Canada in 2009 totaled $6.2 billion, down 14 percent from 2008.


In 2009, 30.3 million U.S. travelers visited overseas markets, a decrease of two percent from 2008. Travel was down to the top five overseas markets: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. If travel to the People’s Republic of China was combined with Hong Kong, China would rank second. Destinations that experienced growth in U.S. visitation were Spain, India, Israel, Republic of Korea, Australia, Greece, Aruba, Philippines, Turkey, New Zealand and Morocco.

Of the top 20 U.S. outbound destination markets in 2009, India, Israel and Greece set records. Also, Africa and the Middle East set regional records for U.S. outbound visits.

Profile of the U.S. Overseas Traveler

The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries also released a profile of U.S. travelers who visited overseas destinations (excluding Canada and Mexico). The profile provides key information on the travel patterns, traveler characteristics and spending by U.S. travelers going abroad.

In addition, a breakdown is provided on leisure/visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travelers and business/convention travelers. The Survey data tables and standard national reports can assist the industry in understanding U.S. travelers going abroad.

Also 48 subsets of the data are available based on 32 questions for the traveler.

Select highlights, comparing 2009 to 2008:

* An estimated 39 percent of U.S. travelers originated from the Middle Atlantic States (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), followed by 19 percent from South Atlantic states and 14 percent from the Pacific states.

* The top ports of departure for U.S. citizens were New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Newark, Atlanta and Chicago (ORD) which accounted for 61 percent of U.S. departures.

* Advance trip decision time decreased from an average of 96 to 90 days and airline reservation times decreased from 65 to 61 days prior to departure.

* The personal computer/Internet continues to grow in importance as a source of information for international trip planning. As an information source, the personal computer/Internet again surpassed the travel agent as the top information source for U.S. travelers going overseas in 2009. Also, the personal computer/Internet continued to be the primary means of booking the trip (39 percent) vs. 33 percent for travel agents.

* Pre-paid package usage slipped to 11 percent of U.S. travelers from 2008.

* The main purpose of the overseas trip was leisure/recreation/holiday for 40 percent of the travelers, the same as in 2009. VFR was the second highest main purpose of trip at 37 percent, up from 34 percent. Business travel comprised 16 percent of outbound travel, down 2 percentage points from 2008.

* The average length of trip (number of nights) outside the United States increased to 18.5 nights in 2009 compared to 18.0 nights in 2008.

* Seven percent of travelers were on their first international trip, up one point from 2008. The average number of international trips taken by U.S. travelers in the last 12 months was 2.4, down from 2.7 in 2008.

* The number of destinations visited averaged 1.7 again in 2009. Although the percentage visiting only one destination increased from 62 percent to 64 percent, those visiting three or more destinations increased to 16 percent from nine percent in 2008.

* The modes of inter-city transportation used by U.S. travelers between destinations were airline (34 percent), railroad (18 percent) and bus (14 percent). The top modes of intra-city transit were taxicab/limo (43 percent) and subway/tram/bus (21 percent).

* The use of private and/or rented autos was 28 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

* Top leisure activities for U.S. travelers other than dining in restaurants and shopping were visiting historical places, visiting small towns and villages, sightseeing in cities, visiting cultural heritage sites and touring the countryside.

* Average international airfare per visitor, per trip, was $1,177 USD, down 23 percent from 2008, and average expenditures (travel payments) per visitor, per trip, while overseas were $1,320, down 14 percent from 2008. The usage of credit cards declined by one percentage point to 52 percent.

* Males comprised 52 percent of U.S. travelers, down one percentage point from 2008, as the number of women travelers continues to increase. The average age of male travelers was 44.8, lower than in 2008; female travelers was 42.7 years, lower than in 2008.

* Average household income was $109,200, down six percent from 2008.

For more information, vista the Outbound Overview page, which contains links to in-depth information on the outbound market:…

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