International tourists spend more than $200 billion annually on travel, hotels, dining and shopping, but the stronger dollar is expected to curb growth this year. Bobbi Rebell reports.
The business of America is huge. International tourists spend more than $200 billion a year in the U.S. But as the dollar climbs to its highest levels in a decade by some measures - and economies overseas get weaker- those billions are at risk. David Heuther of the U.S. Travel Association: SOUNDBITE: DAVID HUETHER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, RESEARCH, U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What we have been seeing is that the growth rate of spending by international travelers when they come to the United States has decelerated a little bit" Huether believes we'll see more impact in the second half of this year. A ten percent appreciation in the dollar typically results in about two percent fewer international visitors a year, according to Tourism Economics. Tourism Economics expects the number of tourists to climb just 3.5 percent this year, a decline from the 5 percent average annual growth of the last 10 years. Reuters Jillian Mincer: SOUNDBITE: JILLIAN MINCER, REUTERS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We know from analysts who are watching this that they are expecting retailers, especially department stores that cater to upscale shoppers, to kind of be impacted by about one-two percent on their sales. And that is a lot. And that could be anyone from Saks, Michael Kors, Kate Spade. Brands that do very well and are very popular with international shoppers." The number of Japanese visitors through last October was four percent lower than the previous year. Venezuela - down 18 percent. But on the flipside, Mexican and Chinese tourists both were up more than 20 percent. Key in that for China - new rules that allow for 10 year visa's: Evan Saunders is CEO of Attract China: SOUNDBITE: EVAN SAUNDERS, CEO, ATTRACT CHINA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Chinese travelers, when they come to America, spend approximately $6,100 per tourist per trip. Year on year they have been growing about 20 percent growth the amount of visitors coming from China to America thanks to the new visa policy being enacted we are looking at 25 to even 30 percent growth year on year for Chinese coming to America." He says despite the costs, Chinese tourists are eager to try everything American, from eating Shake Shack burgers to discount shopping at malls.