Due to an increase in the number of travelers from Canada and Mexico, the number of international visitors to the U.S. is nearly back to the level it was in 2000. However, the number of visitors from major European markets and Japan continues to decline.

According to U.S. Department of Commerce figures released this month, the U.S. hosted 51.1 million international travelers in 2006, up 4 percent from 2005 and nearly equal to the 51.2 million foreign travelers who visited the U.S. in 2000. Travelers from Canada jumped 8 percent in 2006 to 16 million, while visitors from Mexico jumped 6 percent to 13.4 million. Visitors from non-visa-waiver countries, such as China, India, and South Korea, also climbed in 2006—up 18 percent from China and India, and 8 percent from South Korea. Also, visitors from Australia increased 4 percent in 2006.

It’s a different story, however, when looking at the number of visitors from Europe and Japan. According to the Discover America Partnership, citing U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, the number of U.S.-bound travelers from five of the eight largest overseas markets declined from 2005 to 2006 and remains well below 2000 levels. The five major overseas markets where people are visiting the U.S. less often are United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy.

Overall, the number of visitors from overseas countries (excluding Canada and Mexico, which are not overseas) has declined 17 percent since 2001, according to Discover America Partnership—a coalition of U.S. hospitality industry leaders. A 2006 survey of overseas travelers conducted by the Discover America Partnership found negative perceptions of the U.S. entry process to be the greatest deterrent to visiting the country. The DAP has proposed a plan before the U.S. Congress designed to increase international travel to the U.S. For more information on the proposed improvements, go to www.poweroftravel.org.