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Record influx of visitors to U.S. in 2008

Last year, 58 million international visitors came to the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That's an increase of nearly 4 percent from 2007. To sweeten it up a bit, 13 of the top 25 arrivals markets saw new records set. In the last month of the year, nearly 4 million people came here from abroad – down 7 percent. The fourth quarter was down 6 percent year-over-year.

So, we saw most of the action in the first nine months of 2008.

The first three quarters were grand, last year. Seventeen of the top 20 arrivals markets were up from 2007, with one flat and two down. Visitors from Canada were growing at a double-digit rate, though trips from Mexico were down. The rest of the world was up 9 percent for the first nine months of 2008, relative to the same period in 2007.

It all changed at the beginning of October, though. Only 12 of the top 20 countries sent more visitors than in the first quarter of 2007. Canada and Mexico were down, and visits from the rest of the world dropped by 3 percent. You can check the arrival stats monthly by clicking here.

Canada sent 18.9 million people to the United States last year, most of them by land. But, air arrivals grew at a faster rate – 8 percent compared to 6 percent. Another 13.8 million people visited the United States from Mexico. The total is down 4 percent from 2007, with air arrivals down 9 percent.

A total of 25.3 million people visited from the rest of the world – i.e., countries other than Canada and Mexico. While this is up 6 percent from 2007, it's still 2 percent below the record set in 2000. Since 2003, the number of guests arriving from overseas is up 33 percent.

Western Europe shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, that part of the world brought 12.2 million tourists to the United States, a 12 percent gain year-over-year. This group comprised 48 percent of all overseas arrivals. But, they slowed down in December (by 3 percent). France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and Norway set arrival records.
  • Germany: 17 percent
  • France: 25 percent
  • Italy: 23 percent
  • Netherlands: 20 percent
  • Spain: 27 percent
  • Ireland: 8 percent
  • Sweden: 18 percent
  • Switzerland: 15 percent
No records were set in the United Kingdom. Visitors from the country to which we once belonged were up 1 percent for the year but down 14 percent in December. Thirty-seven percent of Western European arrivals come here from the United Kingdom.

And, there's a hell of a lot more of this available, thanks to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.

Check out some of these wacky laws, place names and signs from around the world!

Filed under: North America, United States, News

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