International travel's share of U.S. exports rises to $247 billion, the highest level since 2000, according to new Commerce Department data

WASHINGTON (February 8, 2017)—International travel's share of total U.S. exports reached 11.2 percent in 2016, according to U.S. Travel Association analysis of the latest Department of Commerce data.

This is the sector's highest share since 2000, just before fallout from the September 11, 2001 attacks caused U.S. market share to plummet versus other global destinations.

Travel exports edged up 0.4 percent in 2016 to a record $247 billion. By comparison, overall U.S. exports declined by 2.3 percent last year. International travel also generated an $88 billion trade surplus in 2016.

U.S. Travel researchers noted that without the travel surplus, the overall 2016 U.S. trade deficit of $502 billion would have been 18 percent larger.

"The U.S. lost a significant amount of ground in the international travel marketplace in the years after 9/11, which our industry has come to call 'the Lost Decade,'" said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "But a decade and a half of sound policymaking from administrations and Congresses controlled by both political parties has enabled America to rebound. The success of the Visa Waiver Program, the creation of the Brand USA marketing organization, and our Open Skies aviation agreements with other countries are the policies that come to mind as the foremost contributors to this comeback.

"International visitors create jobs in every state and every congressional district. Our lawmakers can and must capitalize on this economic momentum by focusing on policies that increase secure, legitimate international travel and provide an efficient entry experience."

The U.S. is the single largest destination for global long-haul travel, and the second-largest destination for overall global travel. International travel spending directly supported upwards of 1.1 million American jobs in 2015. A large part of this spending comes from overseas visitors—travelers from beyond Canada and Mexico—who spend an average of $4,300 per U.S. trip.

Learn more about international travel to the U.S. here.