Travel Wire News has a report on foreign visitation to the US along with a graph that says it all. In 1993 45.8 million foreigners visited the US. Eleven years later in 2004 (the last year for which figures were available) the number stood at 46.1 million – an increase of a mere three hundred thousand. The high point was the year 2000 when 51.1 million visitors poured onto US shores. The trend line for spending was not much better with the book-end years at $74.4mln and $93.7mln respectively. In real terms, adjusted for inflation, spending remained virtually flat.
The upshot is that the US (whether via the government or the private sector) is not making much headway while other markets such as Dubai are seeing dizzying growth patterns. The 13th Arabian Travel market in Dubai was notable in that no federal or state agency was present and US industry was absent except for the presence of one tour operator from Florida. While Dubai represents a potentially rich market for both inbound and outbound travel, the complete lack of interest in exposing the US to that part of the world represents more than a missed opportunity for tourism. The current attitude only reinforces the not entirely mistaken notion overseas of Fortress USA. Till this year, that image was quite literal at ITB Berlin where the US pavilion was literally walled off. If the trendline for international visitors is to head north, far more needs to be done both within and outside the country. Ensuring US presence at all tourism trade shows around the world would be a good place to start.