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International travel to US drops for first time since 2009

[WASHINGTON] The number of international visitors to the United States has dropped for the first time since 2009, as did their spending, the US Department of Commerce said Friday.

In 2016, 75.6 million international travellers ventured stateside, a 2 per cent drop from the previous year. Their spending also fell by one per cent to US$244.7 billion.

The figures account for people journeying to the US for business, medical, education and leisure reasons.

Travel and tourism however remained the largest services export out of the US, making up 33 per cent of services exports and 11 per cent overall.

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According to the department, preliminary data in 2017 has shown a rise in the number of visitors.

Both US visitations and spending from China (US$33 billion), Mexico (US$20.2 billion), India (US$13.6 billion) and South Korea (US$8.6 billion) increased, but declined in other top markets.

Canada sends the most travellers to the US, though overall visitors from there have declined more than 6 per cent annually for three straight years.

The US does maintain a surplus of US$84 billion when it comes to tourism spending - meaning foreign tourists in the US spend more than American tourists abroad.

The US tourism industry accounts for 2.7 per cent of GDP and 7.6 million jobs, according to Commerce Department statistics.