Official figures reveal first-quarter fall in US visitor numbers

The number of international travellers to the US dropped by 4% in the first quarter of the year, with the Middle East source markets showing some of the sharpest declines.

The fall follows warnings from the travel industry about the negative impact of increased travel restrictions from the Trump administration.

UK visits slid 15.5% to about 774,800 and the number of Japanese travellers slipped 2.1% to 884,900.

The number of German visitors shrank almost 12% to about 360,000. Total European visitor numbers dropped by 10% to 2.6 million.

About 15.8 million people visited the US from foreign countries in the first three months of 2017, down by 4.2% year-on-year, according to the country’s National Travel & Tourism Office.

The number of visitors from Canada rose 5% year-on-year to 4.6 million during the quarter.

But visits from the next four major tourist markets – Mexico, the UK, Japan and Germany – were down in the January through March period.

The number of travellers from Mexico fell by 7.1% to 3.9 million. The number of visitors from the Middle East plunged 25% year-on-year to 204,000.

The US announced new visa restrictions for six mainly Muslim countries and banned laptops on some flights earlier this year. It reversed the laptop policy in July.

The US Commerce Department defended the administration’s record, pointing to a rise in travel-related spending, which increased 3% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, the BBC reported.

“This proves that international travellers know that the safety enhancements introduced by the Trump administration are far more important than the processing inconveniences from them,” Commerce Department secretary Wilbur Ross said.

The number of international visitors to the US rose steadily from 2009, peaking at 77.5 million in 2015.

Visits fell 2.4% in 2016, with Canada and Mexico accounting for just over half of the travellers.

The US was the only country among major destinations where long-haul bookings declined in the first half of the year, ForwardKeys reported in June.


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