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WASHINGTON: The number of international visitors to the United States has dropped for the first time since 2009, as did their spending, the US Department of Commerce said on Friday.

In 2016, 75.6 million international travellers ventured stateside, a two per cent drop from the previous year. Their spending also fell by one per cent to $244.7 billion.

The figures account for people journeying to the US for business, medical, education and leisure reasons.

Travel and tourism however remained the largest services export out of the US, making up 33 per cent of services exports and 11 per cent overall.

According to the department, preliminary data in 2017 has shown a rise in the number of visitors.

Both US visitations and spending from China ($33 billion), Mexico ($20.2 billion), India ($13.6 billion) and South Korea ($8.6 billion) increased, but declined in other top markets.

Canada sends the most travellers to the US, though overall visitors from there have declined more than six per cent annually for three straight years.

The US does maintain a surplus of $84 billion when it comes to tourism spending — meaning foreign tourists in the US spend more than American tourists abroad.

The US tourism industry accounts for 2.7 per cent of GDP and 7.6 million jobs, according to Commerce Dep­ a­rt­ment statistics.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017

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