Tourism in the United States

2:25 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

A lot of people visit America. According to the latest estimates, about sixty million people came in 2011.

One interesting way to track tourism in America, and by association the country’s openness, is through looking at the number of nonimmigrant visas granted to other countries. The State Department has a number of interesting statistics on the issue, which can be accessed here, here, and here.

Let’s take a look at the statistics. Here is the total number of nonimmigrant visas granted by the United States:


Nonimmigrant visas are essentially tourist visas, although they cover a bit more than that (for instance, they might include special visas for diplomats or airline staff). In theory they provide a good, albeit somewhat exaggerated, estimate of the number of tourists from poor countries who go to America each year.

There are quite a few interesting things in this graph. Firstly, there are a lot fewer than sixty million visas issued. This is because the vast majority of tourists in America come from countries in which visiting America doesn’t require a visa. These countries are places such as Japan and Germany, which send very few immigrants to the United States.

There is also something to be said about the number of visas issued. It’s worth noting that America issued the highest number of visas in 1988, more than two decades ago. Nonimmigrant visas then declined greatly in the early ’90s, before rising again. In the aftermath of 9/11 the number of visas issued declined once more; indeed, America still issues fewer visas than before 9/11. The opportunity cost in lost tourist revenue due to these restrictions is unknown, but probably fairly significant.

Let’s take a look by continent:


I could only get continent data up to 1991. Nevertheless, the data is quite interesting. The highest number of visitors to America from poor countries come from Asia and North America, although South America’s share is rising.

Here is a better look:


One can see a lot more detail here. The patterns by continent are very different.

Let’s take a look by continent, ordered alphabetically. Here is Africa:


Nonimmigrant visas issued increased substantially until September 11th, upon which time the harsher security measures drastically cut visas. Not many Africans visit America; only several hundred thousand are allowed per year.

Here is Asia:
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