Statue of Liberty in New York CityTravelers from far-flung nations flocked to the U.S. last year, particularly to popular destinations like New York City.

Overall in 2010, New York attracted a record-breaking 48.7 million visitors, who spent a collective $31 billion. Of those, only 9.7 million -- about 20% -- hailed from abroad, but those foreign visitors accounted for $15.5 billion, or half, of the spending.

For all of the U.S., international travelers numbered 59.3 million last year, out of a total of 2.16 billion travelers, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association, an industry trade group. And 25.8 million of the foreign visitors came from countries other than neighboring Canada and Mexico.

Where did they go? The most popular U.S. destinations for foreign visitors included New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, says Suzanne Cook, a senior adviser to the association. "When people start visiting the country, they go to iconic destinations," she says.

Deep Pockets

Foreign visitors to the U.S. probably spend about five times as much money as domestic visitors, on average, she adds. "The length of their stay is longer; they're more likely to use hotels," she says. "And many who are on leisure trips have more time to spend money."

Under its current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, New York has developed an aggressive strategy to promote itself as a travel destination worldwide. It now has 18 offices in 25 markets throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

This strategy evidently is paying off: Foreign visitors to the city increased 13% last year, compared to a 5.3% increase in domestic visitors. NYC & Co., the city's official marketing and tourism organization, said the biggest growth came from
China and Hong Kong, up 47%; South Korea, up 35%; Brazil up 27%; Australia up 21%; and India and Argentina, each up 16%.

For the U.S. as a whole, South Korea was the seventh-biggest generator of overseas visitors, while Brazil was the eighth and the China -- excluding Hong Kong -- was the 11th, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data from January through September of 2010. In that same period, the number of foreign visitors to the U.S. grew 8% year over year, compared to only a 3.1% increase in domestic travelers.

"The combination of a weak dollar and nominal price reductions for such purchases as hotel stays, restaurant meals and many retail items has made the U.S., and especially New York, a bargain for many international travelers," says Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

NYC to Remain a Hot Spot

At a press conference last week, Mayor Bloomberg and George Fertitta, chief executive of NYC & Co., predicted the city would attract 50 million annual visitors by 2012, a goal the mayor set back in 2007, before the economic meltdown. This growth is important to the general health of New York's economy because travel and tourism is the city's fifth-biggest industry, supporting over 300,000 jobs.

NYU's Hanson, in fact, predicts the city might well exceed its 50 million-visitor goal this year. He estimates New York's lodging demand will increase more than 5% in 2011, compared to a "slightly more than 3% increase" in U.S. lodging demand. Fertitta predicts New York will see a 3% increase in total visitors -- including both domestic and international -- this year.

According to national data released by the Commerce Department late last month, real spending on travel and tourism grew 8% in the third quarter of 2010, compared to an increase of 3.4% in the second quarter. By comparison, real gross domestic product rose 2.5% in the third quarter and 1.7% in the second quarter.

And even with the current boom in foreign tourism, the Commerce Department says, "it still remains below its peak set" in the third quarter of 2007. Judging from the crowds in Times Square these days, that's hard to imagine.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

36 Comments

Filter by:
elizabeth

Does Bloomberg do anything to make sure that the "tourist" leave?

January 18 2011 at 6:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ornamentalunltd2

Don't worry, It's our White House....
Just sit there..Don't worry.......The China owns almost all the your homes, towns, city's and most likely our government..? Well they did sign over your I.O.U.s too China government. China is very smart they have their bank system....We have some jerk privet bank system....Federal Reserved ( In Name Only ) that WE THE PEOPLE aaaaah... I forgot...Just sit there...Don't worry...
China just announce that they are going to phase out our system within the next 12 years + or - ? Wow....Better start learning to speak Chines... Yen me $ 10.00 OK.
But what do I know I'm just a blacksmith........

January 17 2011 at 8:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

Lets not forget the 911 tourists.

January 17 2011 at 6:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ectullis's comment
Mekhong Kurt

What a grotesque thing to say. It's an insult to the great majority of legitimate foreign tourists -- note I did NOT say "illegal immigrants" or "foreign terrorists, but "LEGITIMATE FOREIGN TOURISTS" --and even MORE of an insult to those who died, were hurt, and otherwise suffered on that terrible day.

February 22 2011 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dvdfrnzwbr

Why people vacation to cities is beyond me. I would much rather enjoy the mountains, beaches, or a new hiking trail.

January 17 2011 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to dvdfrnzwbr's comment
skullcrusherst

tourists? or terrorist ? lets get it straight !!! we are in deep shite people every conceivable plot known to man is being thrown at us racial ethnic class and soon it will come to a head of explosive proportions we need to remember what has happened and what is gonna happen soon false flaggers are tryng to kill the net free speech and rights !!! wake up!!! stand up!!!! or be ground up!!!!!

January 17 2011 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
libluvcheeselogs

U.S. Cities Attract More Global Tourists!!!!!!!!! They found out they have one of their own in the white house.

January 17 2011 at 2:11 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to libluvcheeselogs's comment
DocLagos

Ha Ha, eat your soul out!! lol lol

January 17 2011 at 6:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mekhong Kurt

Hey, @libluvcheeselogs -- just think -- they can visit YOUR home, too. Unless your 100%, full-bloodied, native-born Native American, that is. Otherwise, you're just anotheer tourist too.

February 22 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joejteacher951

Great ! But whose keeping track! Everyone wants to put the immigration problem (Tea Parties etc) on the Mexicans! I wonder how many white Europeans are illegally immigrating to the US. many posing as students etc! Close the borders to a limited amount of tourist!

January 17 2011 at 1:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
gradona941

Its not all Obama fault. The people who were in office before him Did not do anything to stop either. All the Government Officials From 1940 to present are to blame.

January 17 2011 at 1:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
chapbin

Back in December my wife and I took a helicopter trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. All the signs were in Chinese. Im sure the Vegas area is a hot spot for Asian travelers.

January 17 2011 at 12:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
6 replies to chapbin's comment
easymoney235

President Obama continues to do superb work.

January 17 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to easymoney235's comment
Mekhong Kurt

Yes, with our improved reputation in foreign countries -- I live in one as an American expat, so hear it frequently -- our foreign tourism is increasing. A bit of the credit for that does indeed go to the President.

February 22 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply