Record Visitors to U.S. in '97

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. hosted a record 24.2 million overseas visitors in 1997 -- 7 percent more than in 1996, the Commerce Department reported.

The number of western European travelers topped 10 million for the first time, but the biggest percentage increases came from South America, the Middle East and Africa.

The biggest percentage increases by country, all topping 20 percent, included Turkey, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina and India. Even Asia, despite its economic slump, saw its number of U.S.-bound travelers rise 3 percent.

Japan continued to lead all countries with 5.4 million visitors. The U.K. was second with 3.7 million, up 14.6 percent.

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