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China, Latin America leads gains in tourists to US

travel Updated: Jun 11, 2013 16:09 IST

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Tourists from China and Latin America swarmed to the United States last year, while fewer Europeans came, according to a government report released Monday.

A record 67.0 million international visitors clocked into the world's biggest economy in 2012, up by 4.3 million from the prior year, the US Commerce Department said.

It also was a record-breaking year for international travel and tourism spending, which surged 10 percent to $168.1 billion.

As usual, visitors from Canada and Mexico accounted for the lion's share of the total.

Aside from those, Japanese tourists accounted for the largest number of overseas tourists -- 3.7 million -- nearly 14 percent up from a year earlier.

But China had by far the strongest growth, up a whopping 35.3 percent at 1.5 million.

Latin American countries had the second-biggest gains, with Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela roughly up around 20.0 percent and Brazil almost 19 percent.

Recession-mired Europe was the only region among the top 20 countries of origin showing declines.

British visitors strongly outnumbered other European tourists at 3.8 million, but the number was down 1.9 percent.

Spain slumped 13.3 percent, followed by Italy (-6.8 percent), Ireland (-4.3 percent), France (-3.2 percent) and the Netherlands (-1.5 percent).

Visitors from Canada and Mexico flocked into their North American neighbor in record numbers.

Canadian tourists were up 6.4 percent to 22.7 million, followed by Mexico's 14.5 million, up 7.5 percent.

"Increasing international visitors helps grow our economy and create more jobs," said Francisco Sanchez, under secretary of Commerce for international trade, in a statement.

Sanchez said the banner results showed that President Barack Obama's strategy was working as the administration continued to focus its efforts "to make America more welcoming to visitors from all around the world."

The goal is to attract 100 million international visitors, and snare $250 billion in spending, annually by the end of 2021.

The Commerce Department forecast 4.0 percent annual growth through 2018. For 2013, 69.6 million foreign travelers are expected to visit the United States.

Spain was the only one of the top 40 visitor origin countries expected to show a decline during the next six years.

China was projected to lead growth, soaring a total 229 percent over the period, followed by Saudi Arabia (+191 percent), Russia (+79 percent) and Brazil (+66 percent).