Commerce Dept. forecasts increase in arrivals

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NEW ORLEANS -- International arrivals to the U.S. will increase this year and will top 2000 levels by 2004, according to a Commerce Department forecast released May 27 at the Travel Industry Association of America's International Pow Wow here.

The forecast, done by the department's Office of Travel and Tourism Industries twice a year, shows a quicker post-Sept. 11 recovery than it had predicted in October.

Back then, the expectation was that arrivals would not increase until 2003. International arrivals fell sharply in 2001 to an estimated 45.5 million, down from 50.9 million in 2000.

The forecast also shows Japan last year lost its long-standing position as the biggest overseas market for travelers to the U.S., and it is not expected to reclaim its top spot anytime in the near future.

The U.K., which has been number two but steadily gaining, finally jumped to number one last year with an estimated 4.2 million visitors. Japan sent an estimated 4.1 million.

In an indication of the impact Sept. 11 had on travel to the U.S., the U.K. became number one by posting less of a decline in arrivals (11%) than Japan (19%).

The biggest sources of U.S. travelers remain Canada, sending an estimated 13.5 million in 2001, and Mexico, at an estimated 9.6 million.

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