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Foreign Visitors to U.S. Up 14 Percent in 1988

February 16, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of foreign visitors to the United States rose 14 percent last year, with much of the increased traffic coming from Europe and Japan, the government reported Thursday.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration estimated that visits to the United States for business and pleasure reached a record 33.7 million in 1988.

Tourism is expected to continue to grow in the next two years, but at a slower rate. The agency projects 35.8 million foreign visitors in 1989, up 6 percent from last year, and 37.2 million in 1990, up 4 percent from this year.

The biggest share of foreign visits to the United States comes from Canada. Some 13.7 million Canadians visited last year, up 10 percent from 1987.

Visits by Europeans increased 24 percent last year to 5.8 million, with the increase paced by a 34 percent jump in visits from Britian. Visits from Japan also were up 24 percent, to 2.6 million.

The tourism administration said factors contributing to the increases last year included more aggressive marketing of U.S. destinations, the cheaper U.S. dollar in relation to foreign currencies, and healthy economic conditions abroad.

The biggest growth markets for 1989 again are expected to be Britain and Japan. The Japanese government is encouraging citizens to travel abroad as a means of reducing the country’s world trade surplus.

The tourism administration expects visits from Japan to increase 22 percent in 1989 to 3.2 million, and visits from Britian to increase 13 percent to 2.1 million.

Spending by foreign visitors to the United States was up 26 percent to $24.4 billion in 1988, but still was exceeded by the amount spent by Americans traveling abroad, leaving an $8.1 billion deficit. That deficit was down 18 percent from the previous year.

U.S. receipts from foreign visitors are expected to rise 11 percent this year to $27.1 billion.

″Although we are still in a deficit situation, travel and tourism is our largest service sector export, and the deficit is growing smaller evey year,″ said Don Wynegar, director of the tourism administration’s Office of Research.

The administration, responsible for increasing tourism as an export in international trade, has developed a marketing program to attract a bigger share of the growing numbers of Japanese tourists.

″Now that the Japanese government has developed a program to send more citizens abroad as a means of reducing its worldwide trade surplus, the U.S. must respond quickly to attract its fair share of the market,″ said Max Ollendorff, the agency’s director of market development.

The program focuses on improving group tours, developing new tours and improving attractions in the cities where most Japanese visitors arrive. Most Japanese prefer group tours, and many enjoy parks, mountain regions and the American West, the administration said.

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