From bustling big cities to stunning National Parks, the U.S. has one of the most dynamic tourism markets in the world. It’s easy to imagine why the country is among the most visited in the world, standing in the ranks with other top tourist destinations like France and Spain.
Many U.S. cities are hotspots for both domestic and international visitors. In response, tour companies and attractions of all kinds have sprung up across America, catering to locals and visitors alike.
Let’s dive into the most recent U.S. tourism statistics that matter the most for tour operators and attractions.
- How many tourists visit the US each year?
- What percent of the US economy is tourism?
- Top 10 countries that bring the most tourists to the US
- Top 10 US tourist destinations in 2021
How many tourists visit the US each year?
Nearly 80 million tourists flocked to the U.S. in 2019, the last normal year before the pandemic. This puts the U.S. among the most visited countries in the world, trailing behind only France and Spain.
How many tourists visited the U.S. in 2021?
In total, 22.1 million tourists traveled to the U.S. in 2021. That’s an increase of 15% compared to 2020 — yet remains 72% below 2019.
The uptick in visitors helped boost international visitor spending, which grew to $81 billion.
Pandemic-related travel restrictions continued to curb international travel for most of 2021. In November, the U.S. eased its border restrictions, which helped boost international arrivals over the holidays. Still, international arrivals remained 50% below 2019 levels in December 2021.
Most international tourists came from Mexico, while Colombia became the top overseas market.
Tourists in 2020
Only 19.2 million people traveled to the U.S. in 2020.
Three months into 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic halted travel around the world. To slow the spread of the virus, the U.S. suspended nearly all inbound international travel. Entry restrictions were placed on several countries, including China, Iran, Western Europe, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and India.
In June 2020, international travel arrivals were 95% below 2019 levels.
Tourists in 2019
International arrivals to the U.S. totaled 79 million in 2019, with visitor spending reaching $190.9 billion. International tourists injected nearly $240 billion into the U.S. economy — making the U.S. a global leader in revenue from international travel and tourism.
Visitor spending by the numbers
- In 2019, international tourists spent about $16 billion each month.
- They spent about $3.7 billion every week.
- That equates to a whopping $534 million per day.
What percent of the US economy is tourism?
Up until 2019, the travel and tourism industry supported 9.5 million jobs and generated $1.9 trillion of economic activity.
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for 2.9% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). This dropped to a historic low of 1.7% in 2020. However, compared to countries like the Maldives and Aruba, whose tourism industries account for over 30% of GDP, the U.S. economy is far from reliant on travel.
Here’s a comparison of how the U.S. stacks up to the top 10 tourist-dependent destinations:
|Destination||Share of GDP (2019)|
|British Virgin Islands||25.8%|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||23.3%|
|Former Netherlands Antilles||23.1%|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||19.1%|
Top 10 countries that bring the most tourists to the US
In 2021, Mexico was the top source for inbound international travel to the U.S. The neighboring country surpassed Canada — which held the top position for the past five years — for a second consecutive year.
The change can be attributed to the Covid-related travel restrictions impacting both countries.
On that same note, six of the top 10 arrivals markets in 2021 are newcomers, meaning they weren’t a top market in 2019. Meanwhile, eight of the top 10 were from the Western Hemisphere last year, compared to just three in 2019.
Here you can see where international visitors came from in 2021 compared to 2019:
|Canada (20.7 million)||Mexico (10.4 million)|
|Mexico (18.1 million)||Canada (2.5 million)|
|U.K. (4.8 million)||Colombia (1 million)|
|Japan (3.8 million)||U.K. (461,000)|
|China (2.8 million)||India (433,000)|
|South Korea (2.3 million)||Ecuador (407,000)|
|Brazil (2.1 million)||Dominican Republic (406,000)|
|Germany (2.1 million)||Peru (405,000)|
|France (1.8 million)||Argentina (302,000)|
|India (1.5 million)||Guatemala (280,000)|
Source: Trade.gov and UStravel.org
Top 10 US tourist destinations in 2021
Home to America’s favorite Disney theme parks, Orlando has long been known as the top-visited destination in the U.S. In 2018, the city shattered records with 75 million visitors coming from all over the world.
Orlando continued to be the most popular vacation spot in 2021, but it’s not the only Florida destination on the list.
These were the top U.S. tourist destinations in 2021:
- Orlando (59.3 million)
- Los Angeles (40 million)
- Philadelphia (36.2 Million)
- New York City (33 million)
- Las Vegas (32 million)
- Chicago (30.7 million)
- Seattle (27.5 million)
- Miami (24.2 million)
- San Diego (24 million)
- San Francisco (14.8 million)
As international tourists return, is your company ready to welcome them? Now is the time to double down on your marketing efforts to attract new travelers coming from outside of the U.S.