Visa Report Shows Increase in Inbound and Outbound U.S. Tourism Spending in 2008, Decline in Early 2009

June 10, 2009 at 8:02 AM EDT
40 Percent of Respondents Plan to Travel Abroad in the Next Two Years; 83 Percent Modifying Plans Based on Economic Environment Fewer Than One in 10 U.S. Adults Say Swine Flu (H1N1) Has Impacted Travel Plans
SAN FRANCISCO, Jun 10, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Despite a challenging environment, spending by visitors to the U.S. increased to $52 billion in 2008, up $7 billion from 20071, as measured by spending on Visa-branded payments cards by international visitors. At the same time, Americans exercised a similar desire for international travel, spending $42.4 billion on their Visa cards abroad in 2008, up 3 percent from 20072. This is according to Tourism Outlook: USA, a new report released by Visa Inc. (NYSE: V).

While there is continued interest in international travel, both U.S. inbound and outbound spending declined between January and March 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. Despite this, nearly half of Americans surveyed (47 percent) in Tourism Outlook said the economic environment has not impacted their desire to travel outside the U.S., and 18 percent are even more willing to travel internationally. However, 83 percent plan to modify their travel plans based on the economic environment. Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) plan to travel during the off-peak season to take advantage of lower prices, while 31 percent plan on traveling closer to home. The Visa Tourism Outlook survey evaluated travel intentions and attitudes among 5,539 travelers in 11 nations, including the U.S., who have traveled internationally in the past two years.

"The U.S. continues to be a major source market for global tourism. Americans' travel intentions have not diminished for 2009 and 2010. However, travelers are increasingly price sensitive and seeking greater value when planning travel," said Bill Sheedy, President, North America at Visa Inc. "As travelers are discerning in their choice of destinations and time of year for travel, Visa's insight into tourist behavior and attitudes in the U.S. and globally can support the tourism providers in capturing tourism revenues."

Swine Flu Has Minimal Impact on 2009 Travel Intentions

In addition, Visa Inc. recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults in late May 2009 on how swine flu (H1N1) impacted their travel plans for 2009. Only 7 percent of respondents stated that H1N1 had impacted their 2009 travel plans. The majority (84 percent) said that the H1N1 virus has not changed their intention to travel. In addition, 84 percent said they felt sufficiently informed about the H1N1 situation. While the overall impact of H1N1 on respondents' 2009 travel was minimal, there are still a variety of factors that are preventing people from traveling this year. When asked what factors might impact their decision not to travel in 2009, respondents cited the cost of travel (61 percent), economic concerns (54 percent) and personal safety concerns (21 percent).

Economic Concerns, Quest for Value Impact Q1 2009 Tourism Spending

While consumer research indicates that Americans remain determined to travel in 2009, the desire for more value and economic concerns have likely impacted tourism spending during early 2009. Visa Inc. saw a decline in tourism spending by U.S. travelers abroad in the first three months of 2009 compared with one year ago. From Jan. 1 - March 31, 2009, spending by U.S. travelers abroad on their Visa cards was down 9 percent, at $9.3 billion compared with $10.2 billion during the same period in 20083.

In comparison, for the calendar year 2008, spending by American travelers abroad totaled $42.4 billion, up 3 percent from 20074. Canada ($5.5 billion), the United Kingdom ($4.4 billion), Mexico ($3.5 billion), Germany ($1.6 billion), France ($1.6 billion) and Italy ($1.5 billion) were the most popular destinations for Americans in 2008, as measured by spending on Visa payment cards. The United Arab Emirates recorded significant year-over-year growth, with U.S. visitors spending $732.6 million on their Visa cards in 2008, up 85 percent from 2007.

Consistent with 2007 and 2008 spending trends, and the desire to reduce costs by traveling closer to home, Mexico and Canada ranked in the top five international destinations among U.S. survey respondents for the second year, along with the U.K., the Caribbean and Italy.

U.S. Remains Top Destination for Global Travelers

During the first three months of 2009, total inbound tourist spending on Visa cards totaled $11 billion, down from $12.9 billion in 2008. However, while spending decreased slightly year over year, the U.S. remains a top destination for international tourists. The majority of survey respondents who have been to the U.S. (79 percent) have visited multiple times. And three out of four survey respondents believe they are likely to visit the U.S. in the next two years, with strong interest from potential travelers from Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Japan.

Florida, New York and California Top Contributors to U.S. Tourism Revenues

Where and on what are U.S. visitors spending? In 2008, the two largest merchant segments for international visitors to the U.S., based on Visa transaction volume, were general retail at $18.8 billion and lodging at $5.8 billion. States with the largest share of spending on Visa payment cards by inbound visitors included Florida, New York, California, Texas and Nevada. While Nevada was fifth overall in transaction volume, the average transaction amount for the state was the highest at $160.94.

VisaVue(R) Travel Reports

This month, Visa launched VisaVue(R) Travel Reports, a strategic tool for the tourism industry based on analysis of Visa cardholder spending patterns worldwide. Visa's network of 30 million merchants and 1.7 billion cards provides a unique and global view into international tourist spending. VisaVue(R) Travel Reports evaluates spending of both leisure and business travelers worldwide, and it analyzes purchase patterns based on travelers' origin country and across various merchant categories - from airlines to restaurants.

"Visa is committed to providing a reliable global payment acceptance network for our cardholders, and supporting state and local governments in their efforts to grow tourism revenues by providing tourism data and insights that show where and how visitors spend their money," said Sheedy.

About Tourism Outlook: USA

For the Visa international tourism survey, 5,539 adult consumers aged 18+ were interviewed as part of an online panel survey hosted by GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc). Field work took place between December 11, 2008 and January 8, 2009. During the research process, questions are posed to a panel of consumers and data is collected until various predefined sampling quotas are reached. The results are then analyzed and sig-tested at a 95 percent confidence level. For this summary, the main differences that are interesting and statistically significant have been described accordingly.

Visa cardholder spending data cited is based upon a review of tourism spending on Visa-branded payment cards by international visitors from key source countries while visiting the United States during the calendar years 2008 (January 1 - December 31, 2008) and 2007 (January 1 - December 31, 2007). These findings are based upon VisaVue(R) Travel data. Visa introduced the VisaVue(R) Travel tourism reports to a pilot group of U.S. tourism organizations in early 2008 and is now available to a broader audience of state and convention and visitors bureau destination marketing entities.

About the Visa Swine Flu (H1N1) Survey

This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,001 adults comprising 501 men and 500 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental U.S. Interviewing for this survey was completed by CARAVAN(R) during the period May 29-June 1, 2009. The results of this survey were analyzed and at a 95 percent confidence level.

About Visa Inc.

Visa operates the world's largest retail electronic payments network providing processing services and payment product platforms. This includes consumer credit, debit, prepaid and commercial payments, which are offered under the Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink and PLUS brands. Visa enjoys unsurpassed acceptance around the world and Visa/PLUS is one of the world's largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in more than 170 countries. For more information, visit

1 VisaVue Travel Data, 2007-08. All spending data noted is in U.S. dollars.

2 Represents spending by U.S.-based Visa payment cardholders in 170 top destination countries.

3 VisaVue Travel Data, 2007-08. All spending data noted is in U.S. dollars.

4 Represents spending by U.S.-based Visa payment cardholders in 170 top destination countries.


Paul Wilke, 415-932-2248
Emily Collins, 415-318-4106