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May 13, 2010

2009 Overseas Visitation to U.S. States, Cities and Traveler Characteristics Data

Today the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the states, cities, and territories that benefited from overseas travelers to the United States. In 2009 overseas arrivals to the United States posted a six percent decline from 2008. The 2009 Overseas Visitation to U.S. States, Cities and Traveler Characteristics Data release details how the various destinations fared and which origin markets and characteristics contributed to those results.

New York State was the state most visited by overseas travelers for the seventh consecutive year. Visitation to New York declined five percent, slightly less than the national average. Florida moved up into second position, for the first time since 2004, with a one percent increase in visitation. California moved down to third position after experiencing a 13 percent drop in visitation. Nevada, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Illinois followed the top three states in visitation estimates. Of the 20 states/territories for which estimates are available, double-digit declines were suffered by 10 states. Virginia visitation increased by 16 percent leading growth among the six states posting growth in 2009.

The cities most visited by overseas travelers in 2009 were New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the District of Colombia, Honolulu, Boston and Chicago. Of the 20 city visitation estimates issued, 14 posted declines, 10 of which were double-digit declines. Of the six cities with increased visitation, Atlanta and Tampa/St. Petersburg posted the highest growth at seven percent and six percent, respectively. New York City continued its top spot but the city faced a five percent decline. Los Angeles, which has been the second most visited city for a decade, fell below Miami in 2009.

To view the top states and cities visited by overseas travelers, go to:

Changes in a state or city’s visitation estimate vary from year-to-year due to origin market visitation changes and/or shifts in the characteristics of the overseas visitors. For example:

  • New York state was down five percent overall, however travel to the state from Europe and Asia was down 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Nonetheless, travel from South American countries was up an average 25 percent.

  • Florida state visitation was up one percent due to travel from South America being up five percent, whereas Europe and Asia travel was down two percent and 11 percent, respectively.

  • California state visitation was down 13 percent due to declines of 14 percent from Asia, 16 percent from Europe, but only seven percent from Oceania.

Changes in key traveler characteristics may also influence visitation, such as, business versus leisure travel, the number of destinations visited, and/or the traveler’s use of transportation within the country. Some of the key shifts in traveler characteristics that occurred in 2009 compared to 2008, and over the past several years, that can impact the destinations visited include:

  • Increases in leisure travel as a purpose of trip, up two percentage points to 65.5 percent, but not enough to offset the decline in business travelers, from 25.2 percent to 20.8 percent.

  • Declines in the market share of visitors using a tour package, for the fifth straight year.

  • Increases in the percent of travelers who only visit one state.

  • Declines in the use of automobiles (rental cars, company/private autos) as a mode of transport within the United States, occurring each year for the last five of seven years.

  • Increases in the percentage growth of women travelers from 40 percent in 2008 to almost 44 percent in 2009.

  • Increases in the share of first time travelers to the United States for five of the last seven years.

  • Declines in the reported mean annual household income by $10,000 to $90,300 (note: this also reflects changes in monthly U.S. dollar exchange rates.)

The 2009 overseas traveler profile may be viewed at: and it illustrates the 35 traveler characteristics data that is available for a travel or census region, state, city, airport, industry sector (hotels, rental cars, credit card use, specific activities), or airline1. Included are trip planning factors, the purpose of trip (business and/or leisure), whether a tour package was used, the proportion of first time vs. repeat travelers to the country, transportation used while within the country, demographics (age, gender, occupation type, income), activities and expenditures.

OTTI has also released 11 world regional profiles and 22 countries. These profiles provide the traveler characteristics for each market between 2008 and 2009 along with the destinations visited each year. To see the market profiles, go to:

In 2009, OTTI was able to collect almost three percent more survey responses than in 2008, resulting in the largest sample since 1999. Additionally, OTTI worked with several destinations to enhance data collected at their local airport. The sample increases and other improvements enable better tracking of the shifts occurring in the U.S. international marketplace. These changes, in turn, impact the destinations visited. To view the market share, volume estimates and percentage change for overseas travelers to the U.S. for 2008 and 2009, please visit OTTI's web site at:

Destination visitation estimates are publicly released for 20 states and 20 cities. The limited number of estimates, for destinations visited, is due to limitations in sample size and OTTI’s statistical policy which requires a minimum of 400 survey respondents for a public estimate. The policy is intended to help ensure the quality of the estimates.

In addition to the aggregate level data available on the web site, OTTI also offers detailed and custom reports or data on a subscription basis using the 35 tables shown in the overseas profile. For information on the research programs that were used to generate the market intelligence issued, see the publications section and custom reports section in the Research Programs area of the Survey of International Air Travelers, at: If you have any questions or need any additional information concerning the visitation estimates, please contact OTTI on 202-482-0140.


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