March 04--Spending by international visitors to the United States continues to soar, with data for 2013 showing foreign travelers spent a record-breaking $180.7 billion on food, lodging, souvenirs and hotels.
The spending by foreign visitors represented a 9% jump over 2012 and is the latest example of continuous growth since the Great Recession, according to the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
The rise in spending is good news for Los Angeles County, where tourism is one of the largest industries. The county set a new record in 2013 with 42.2 million visitors, a 2.5% increase over the previous year.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the Obama administration has set a goal of hosting 100 million international visitors per year by 2021.
The U.S. hosted an estimated 70 million visitors in 2013 and is expected to attract 81 million by 2016, according to the U.S. Travel Assn., the nation's top trade group for the travel industry.
Canada and Mexico continue to generate the greatest number of visitors but the biggest spenders come from China, Brazil, Japan, Australia and South Korea, according to U.S. spending data.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Chile will be the latest country to enter the visa waiver program. Chile joins 37 other countries whose citizens are eligible to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or tourism without applying for a visa.