January 23, 2009

U.S. tourism expected to slide in 2009

Tourism in the United States is expected to drop with 1.6 percent fewer foreign visitors expected in 2009, compared with 2008, a trade group said.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates about 60 million foreigners will visit the U.S. this year, USA Today reported Friday.

Visits from foreigners held up through 2008, as declines in economies abroad lagged behind the U.S. recession and the weak dollar prompted millions from Europe to take advantage of their relatively strong purchasing power.

This year, U.S. cities could be especially hurt by the drop in tourism, the newspaper said.

International travelers have an extra-large effect because they stay more days in a hotel and spend more on average than domestic travelers, said Bjorn Hanson at New York University.

Some in the tourism business are hoping President Barack Obama's personable image may help.

Some view Obama's recent inauguration as a boost to tourism trade, Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels and chairman emeritus of U.S. Travel Association said.

But, the positive effect of the first black American president might be fleeting. There are many reasons our image is not what it used to be, Tisch said.