tourism spending by international visitors is helping to boost the U.S.
economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data yesterday showing that
international visitors have spent an estimated $82.2 billion on U.S. travel and
tourism-related goods and services year to date, an increase of 11 percent when
compared to the same period last year. Many people do not know that this boosts
exports – when foreign citizens travel to America and buy goods and services
from American companies, that counts as a U.S. export. The new data indicate
that the first half of 2012 set a new record for U.S. travel and tourism
exports, and, if these trends continue, international visitors could end up
injecting close to $170 billion into the U.S. economy by year-end.
These increases help explain why the Obama administration is working hard to make the United States the top destination for international travelers. The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior are implementing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy , which they presented  to the President in May. The National Strategy is a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S., setting out the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, more than a 50 percent increase over the number expected this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.
The National Strategy lays out concrete steps to be taken in five key areas, and at Commerce and Interior, we have already begun implementing these steps. For example, Commerce’s International Trade Administration is supplying the travel and tourism industry with important data, including international arrivals to the U.S., forecasts of international travel to America from more than 30 countries, and estimates of the total impact of travel and tourism on the economy. Also, specialists in Commerce’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (US&FCS), located in offices in the United States and around the world, help local tourist destinations and nearby companies understand global markets and attract more travelers to the United States. The US&FCS also promotes U.S. destinations at international travel and tourism tradeshows and furthers awareness of U.S. travel destinations  among foreign media.
At Interior, we redesigned Recreation.gov  as an initial step in a multi-year strategy to engage visitors with enhanced interactive web content and more multimedia, mobile, trip-planning tools. The seven million visitors who use this website every year will be able to make reservations, see ready-made itineraries for destination cities, and search for activities on an interactive map. Several new features have been added such as an Explore Trip Ideas  section with interactive maps to help visitors discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more. And there are now Go Lists  that were created to encourage more people to get active outdoors, including places to go, events, and activities at federal sites across the country.