Written by Staff Writer
The United States enjoyed “the biggest gain” among countries welcoming American tourists in 2015, according to a new report from the US Travel Association (USTA).
This jump is a notable jump considering the number of US tourists who purchased travel spending cards for the first time, which makes up almost half of the number of travel spending cards issued in the United States, according to the report .
“US travelers entered 2015 with renewed confidence in the economy and bolstered by recent improvements in the global economy,” said Heather Conley, senior vice president at USTA in a press release.
Last year the US economy was growing at an average of 2.3% per year, making it the strongest recovery in 16 years, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research . The US also put in its best performance in years against several key economic indicators, including a healthy 4.2% GDP growth in the second quarter of 2015.
But despite all these high growth factors, as well as a falling exchange rate, fewer Americans traveled overseas in 2015. US travel agency ArrivalMate found that 3.9 million American tourists left the country, down from 4.3 million the year before.
Visits by Cuban nationals rose 73% to 234,000 last year, as this category was included in the new “Bilateral Policy Reforms” on US travel and trade with Cuba from 2014.
Mexico maintained its lead as the No. 1 international travel destination for US travelers with 4.4 million arrivals, or 65% of the total total. Next in line were Canada and Canada, Mexico. The United Kingdom came in fourth at 4.1 million, at a 17% share of the total number of US tourist arrivals.
Traditional domestic hot spots like Las Vegas, Florida and Hawaii saw the biggest jump in the number of US tourists. Las Vegas was up 7% to 1.5 million and Florida was up 10% to 3.3 million. In Orlando, where not only Florida, but also more than 20 US state cities, saw tourist arrivals increase, total arrivals grew 16% to 2.8 million.
But after years of decline, overall US tourist arrivals have only seen a 2% increase, less than 2% rise since 2010, according to the USTA.