Tourism Makes Economic Indicators Travel in Right Direction

by Joe Bardin

tourism_0913Tourism provides a significant counterbalance to economic shortfalls. Even as the nation’s trade deficit for May swelled by $4.9 billion to $45 billion, the U.S. Travel Association reports that travel was doing more than its share to increase total exports for the U.S. While exports fell by $500 million, travel exports (all purchases by international visitors, including lodging, meals and gifts) actually grew.

“While overall U.S. exports fell in May — the third monthly decline so far this year — travel exports continue to be a source of durable strength for the U.S. economy, rising in May for the fourth time in the past five months,” says David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics for the U.S. Travel Association.

Over the first five months of 2013, travel exports rose 7.7 percent compared to the first five months of 2012. This is five times faster than the 1.4-percent increase achieved by other U.S. exports over the same time period. All of which makes a compelling case for easing visa restriction for tourists seeking to visit the U.S.

Arizona should know the value of tourism better than most. Its tourism industry generated $19.3 billion in 2012, the most since 2007 and the Great Recession. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, total spending grew by more than $1 billion over 2011. More than 38 million people visited Arizona in 2012.

This pace is continuing and even growing in 2013, according to passenger traffic counts at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as reported by the City of Phoenix, which owns the airport. Roughly 3.47 million passengers flew in and out of Phoenix in May 2013, compared to 3.41 million passengers in May 2012.

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