The pandemic has caused turbulence for tourism in the United States and the government has decided to bring back foreign tourists and presented Monday, June 6 a plan to attract them, aiming to welcome 90 million international travellers per year.
Total spending by these visitors is estimated at USD 279 billion per year, the Commerce Department said in a statement.
By 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the United States had welcomed 79 million foreign tourists, according to data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“The impact of COVID-19 has affected our national and local economies, but it has also presented us with a unique opportunity to shape a travel and tourism industry that is more inclusive, equitable, sustainable, and resilient than ever before,” commented U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The U.S., which prior to the pandemic was the third most visited country in the world behind France and Spain, wants to attract international travellers to regions that are not or are barely benefiting from the tourism windfall.
“Our new strategy leverages the best of what the U.S. public and private sectors have to offer, which will promote jobs, recover lost revenue and inspire unforgettable experiences,” she added.
U.S. borders were closed to tourists between March 2020 and November 2021. They have begun to return, but only tentatively, the Commerce Department said.
The number of international travellers has, admittedly, increased from only 775,000 in October 2021, just before the borders reopened, to two million in April 2022, which has “generated a trade surplus in each of the last five months.”
But the number of international travellers remains “below pre-pandemic levels,” when the country averaged six to seven million people per month.
The drop in visitors to the U.S. due to COVID-19 and restrictions, both American and foreign, accounted for more than half (56%) of the decline in the gross domestic product in 2020, the Commerce Department said.
When non-US tourists spend their money in the United States, that income is counted as part of US exports. As a result, travel exports were down 65% in 2020 compared to 2019.