Americans love travelling. While domestic travel is more popular, many Americans still travel abroad. But where do they travel the most? Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) publishes monthly data (http://travel.trade.gov/research/monthly/index.html) of US citizens traveling abroad by air. We analyzed this data to answer questions like this. For example, data shows Europe was the most popular travel destination for Americans in 2013. Of course, Canada and Mexico are even closer and have more in common with America than Europe. But they still came in second. Ironically, most of third place went to the Caribbean region of Central America. When people, particularly Americans, think of a vacation, the popular vision of a perfect getaway involves tropical settings. On the other hand, this area did rank third in destination points that Americans want to visit, so maybe there is some truth to it. The data below provided by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) shows the most popular vacation spots for Americans by country: Where do 1

OTTI also publishes data on foreigners visiting US. Inbound numbers are quite different. The greatest number of people entering the United States in 2013 came from Canada and Mexico. As seen below, Canada and Mexico are ahead of other countries visiting America with a staggering total of 37.7 million tourists: Where do 2

The number of inbound visitors from Canada in particularly amount to a discrepancy when compared to its outbound numbers. Note that outbound numbers we included in this study are for air travel only. If we include total outbound traffic to Canada, it reaches 12 millions which is still about half of the inbound numbers. The comparative numbers between Mexico and the United States are a little more balanced, but are still slanted in favor towards the US in terms of inbound visitors. But if we include land and border (1+ nights) crossings outbound travel numbers reach 20.5 million far ahead of the inbound traffic.

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We also looked at these numbers in historical perspective. The numbers below illustrate the tourist popularity of Central America and the Caribbean for Americans. Interestingly, visitors from Asia and South America are surpassing American tourists in these regions. South America is easy to understand as they’re extremely close to this area. Asia, on the other hand, is more of a mystery. Either way, there has been a steady increase of outbound travel:

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The numbers for South America are a little more sporadic. Between 2003 and 2008, the outbound traffic outnumbered the inbound. However, there was an exponential rise in inbound traffic from South America beginning in 2003. In 2013, visitors from South America are almost three times greater than American tourists. Like South America, Asia’s inbound traffic has increased greatly during the past four years. Could this be a signal for a new trend in travelling?

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Looking at inbound and outbound numbers since 1996, it’s obvious that there was a downfall with both categories in 2001. Another fall started in 2009. Inbound numbers grew in 2010, but outbound numbers didn’t start to increase until 2012. This could very well be due to the recession that took place during these dates.

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Heat maps of total visitors by year from 1996 to 2013 and month (Jan. – Dec.) shows when these incidents took place. Inbound and outbound tourism took a significant slide in September 2011 which is clearly the effect of 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, in 2009 it was more stable and the effects were observed slower. This typically occurs during a recession despite the political landscape.

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