Tourism is big business in the United States, and international visitors are a major reason why.
The 77 million visitors from other countries who visited last year spent a quarter-trillion dollars, generating 1.2 million U.S. jobs, the Commerce Department says.
Ismail Abu Saoud’s travel company, Jerusalem Express Travel in Amman, Jordan, sends 5,000 of those visitors to the United States each year, booking airfare, hotels and travel packages for business travelers and tourists from a half-dozen countries across the Middle East.
“Everything is running well,” says Saoud, who attended the U.S. Travel Association’s annual IPW (for International Pow Wow) trade show in Washington recently.
The meeting drew more than 5,000 attendees and 1,100 exhibitors, including buyers like Saoud from 70 countries who were making deals with hotels, rental-car companies, resorts, amusement parks and other attractions to market to travelers back home.
How the experts see U.S. travel
For Teo Pérez, commercial director of Euroandino Tour Operators in Santiago, Chile, business has boomed since Chile became one of 38 countries from which visitors can enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
“It’s getting better and better every day,” he says. Chileans “love the USA for several reasons: the shopping, the beaches, good shows, fly and drive — driving here is very, very easy — and you can fit any client, any budget, in the U.S.”
Alfred Chang, vice president of Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, makes the same point. Tourists from China “are excited. You have pretty much everything: culture, nature, shopping, adventure.”
While Ctrip sells organized tours, Chang says, “85 percent of the arrangements by individual travelers from China are booked through my company.”
Naveed Sohail, tour manager for Badur Travel in Safat, Kuwait, says the only drawback for Kuwaitis is the distance — 14 hours by air.
Shuban Kotwal, a director of Southall Travel, a British agency, believes more United Kingdom vacationers will come to the U.S. after Britain exits the European Union.
“We’ve been sending a steady 20,000 to 25,000 each year, but we want to increase that,” says Kotwal. “We were not giving much attention to America earlier, but our focus now is on North America because we want to grow.”
Joy Bernard, general manager of Bahman International Travel Company, says that while Kuwaitis “are very familiar with the U.S.,” he encourages customers to venture beyond New York, Florida and California. “We’re trying to promote Hawaii and Alaska, put both together as a package and sell it to them.”
Brand USA offers more information about traveling to the United States.