Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank 
Tourism is America’s number one service export, and today we have even more evidence that America is indeed open for business. New data  released by the U.S. Commerce Department today shows that international visitors spent nearly $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in May—$1 billion more than was spent in May 2011—marking 29 straight months of growth.
This data also means that the U.S. is on pace for a record-setting year, with international visitors having spent over $68 billion so far – up 12 percent compared to last year.
The facts are clear: tourism is a high-growth bright spot in our economy. We must continue to build on this momentum by making sure that America is travel-friendly to international visitors, thereby helping our businesses create even more jobs.
Fortunately, there are many dedicated people working to increase travel and tourism. This morning, I had the chance to talk with a few of them at a meeting of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in Dearborn, Mich., where I joined federal agency partners, as well as U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), to discuss the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to increase travel and tourism  to the United States. During the board meeting, we discussed implementation of the recently released National Travel and Tourism Strategy  (PDF), a blueprint for the federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. These visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting even more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.
Many people do not know that foreign visitors to our country increase America’s exports, since this results in foreigners buying U.S. goods and services. So more foreign tourists translates to higher exports, a reduced trade deficit and stronger U.S. economic growth. One of our priorities at the Commerce Department is to push forward with the President’s National Export Initiative, which set the goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. We’ve already made strong progress. For example, last year we had an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in U.S. exports. Our services exports reached $606 billion, with travel and tourism-related exports representing over one-fourth of that total. Most important, we’ve seen the number of export-supported jobs increase by 1.2 million from 2009 to 2011.
The Obama administration’s number one priority remains strengthening our economy and creating jobs, and we will continue doing everything possible to make the U.S. welcoming to visitors to support even more American jobs. Travel and tourism to the U.S. is an important way for us to expand our commercial ties and ensure balanced trade growth. Under President Obama’s leadership, the Commerce Department is working closely with America’s travel and tourism industry to encourage more travel to the United States.