First, a preface on this month’s report on the number of visitors to the United States from overseas markets. Some five years ago, the writer of this item visited Ireland and, among other activities, experienced a few moments at Ireland’s famed Cliffs of Moher. But the winds in the area were just too wicked for me, and I quickly had to forego the opportunity to see, photograph and breathe in this wild wet tempest along the Atlantic Coast.

“I’ve seen worse,” said the guide on the tour I was taking, reassuring everyone, and suggesting that I was bit timid. He was right, as I learned later that that Moher’s average wind speeds are in excess of 80 kmph (kilometers per hour) with gusts in excess of 130 kmph. There have even been wind speeds recorded in excess of 200 kmph! And people have actually died, it is said, as they tried to get as close to the edge of the cliffs as possible, then …

The point is that, as disparate, dismal and disappointing as activity aimed at marketing and promoting the Visit USA travel products were, we’ve all seen it worse. But compared to what? A couple of thoughts follow:

  • The figures for arrivals to the USA—prepared by the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)—tell us that overseas visitors are only roughly a third of what they were in 2022. However, every top 20 country market registered an increase vs. 2021.
  • Some major markets (China and Japan, for example, which were both Top 5 source markets in 2019) had yet to show any progress in 2022. China has had strict restrictions on travel during most of the global pandemic. The situation in Japan is reflected in the industry’s main trade group—the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA)—hasn’t even issued its quarterly outlook survey for more than three years.

While a number of tourism promoters have been discouraged at times—some wholesalers have simply given up and some, while others have persisted, have re-tooled themselves to offer additional skills to employers, or reinventing themselves within the industry. Take a look at the NTTO numbers below (remember, they are preliminary) and you’ll come to realize that you’ve seen it worse.

Overseas Visitors to the U.S. by World Region of Residence for 2021

World Region Arrivals 2022 Share % Change from 2021
   Western Europe 10,341,306 43.2% 509.2%
   Eastern Europe 704,786 2.9% 167.0%
   Asia 4,123,899 17.2% 219.8%
   Middle East 861,107 3.6% 67.9%
   Africa 366,585 1.5% 138.3%
   Oceania 798,444 3.3% 1084.7%
   South America 4,213,711 17.6% 39.6%
   Central America* 1,191,561 5.0% 0.9%
   Caribbean 1,351,558 5.6% 36.5%
   Total Overseas 23,952,957 100.0% 161.1%

* Excluding Mexico

Top 20 Overseas Tourism-Generating Countries for USA

Total from January through December, 2022

Country and Rank Number of Arrivals Change from 2021
1. United Kingdom 3,466,107 652.3%
2. Germany 1,481,008 494.4%
3. France 1,317,882 493.5%
4. India 1,256,915 190.1%
5. Brazil 1,224,974 411.8%
6. Colombia 943,819 (11.3%)
7. South Korea 919,796 353.7%
8. Spain 773,421 323.9%
9. Italy 717,593 429.1%
10. Australia 641,772 1123.8%
11. Japan 597,330 391.6%
12. Argentina 524,841 73.9%
13. Netherlands 473,009 451.1%
14. Dominican Republic 431,672 6.4%
15. Chile 411,931 98.7%
16. Ireland 402,619 715.0%
17. Ecuador 369,927 (9.2%)
18. China, PRC 368,111 91.9%
19. Israel 355,194 70.5%
20. Switzerland 314,226 460.2%

A note on what NTTO does beyond tallying the number of individuals who visit the United States: The National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) manages the ADIS/I-94 visitor arrivals program in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The I-94 provides a count of visitor arrivals to the United States (with stays of 1-night or more and visiting under certain visa types) to calculate U.S. travel and tourism volume exports.

I-94s are processed to determine U.S. visitation from overseas (all modes) and Mexico air and sea travelers. To understand the magnitude of the filtering that is involved in processing I-94 raw data, in 2020 DHS/CBP provided NTTO with 547,047,790 ADIS/I-94 raw records of which only 8,684,990 records represented travel from overseas countries (all modes) and Mexico air and sea.

By Tom Berrigan