It may come as no surprise that the United States is a magnet for many world travelers, but where the visitors come from and where they go is revealing.
For a long time, most overseas visitors to the U.S., whether on business or holiday, have arrived from Europe, but an increasing number today are coming from Asia, especially China (see the sidebar).
Overall, the United States welcomes more than 75 million international visitors each year, with about half arriving from neighboring Mexico and Canada. Of the remaining 50 percent of travelers, the United Kingdom leads the way with 12 percent.
“The United States is, by far, the largest receiver of travel dollars,” reports the U.S. Travel Association, noting that 17 percent of such spending occurred in the U.S. in 2016.
Looking ahead, the largest projected percentage increase in travelers to the U.S. through 2021 will come from China. India, Argentina, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia follow, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
As to where overseas visitors go once they arrive in the U.S., here are their top five destinations:
1) New York
New York is the most linguistically diverse city on the planet, with more than 800 languages spoken. The city also is the world’s most ethnically diverse: 37 percent of New York’s population (8.5 million) was born outside of the United States. Top New York tourist attractions include the Empire State Building (above), Times Square, Broadway shows, the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Port of Miami in southern Florida is the world’s busiest cruise port. Overseas travelers hit Miami for the same reason many Americans do: the beautiful beaches and warm weather, especially in the months of December, January and February. The South Beach neighborhood is famous for its Art Deco architecture, Cuban cuisine and nightlife. Favorite outdoor activities include golf, tennis, sport fishing and a day trip to Everglades National Park an hour away.
3) Los Angeles
Located in Southern California and situated beneath a dramatic mountain backdrop, Los Angeles is famous for its “Mediterranean climate” — sunny, dry and warm weather year round. The city’s beaches and nearby Disneyland are tourist favorites. And Los Angeles attracts film and TV buffs who can tour movie studios such as Warner Brothers, Paramount and Universal Studios Hollywood. Visitors enjoy walking down Hollywood Boulevard to see more than 2,600 stars marking the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk.
Nearly 70 million tourists each year arrive in Orlando, Florida, with many hitting SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort (with its popular “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”) and the Walt Disney World Resort, which includes two water parks, Epcot and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Travelers to this central Florida destination also make trips to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to learn about America’s space program, its astronauts and upcoming missions to explore deep space.
5) San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge in northern California is one of the most famous spans in the world and is this city’s most recognized landmark. It was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge when completed in 1937. Other legendary features of San Francisco include its trolley cars, steep hills, and neighborhoods such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. A more bucolic tourist draw lies right outside of San Francisco: the Napa Valley, gateway to famous vineyards and wineries.