The United States tourism industry grew at an annual 8% in the fourth quarter of 2006, the highest since the first quarter of 2005, according to a Commerce Department release.
The expansion follows a 1.6% drop in the third quarter reflecting a strong recovery in air flights and lodging, adds the release. In early March Carlos Gutierrez US Secretary of Commerce said that 51.2 million tourists had visited United States in 2006, with nine countries showing a significant increase in their participation. This represented a 4% overall increase compared to 2005. A weak US dollar, which dropped 8% against the world's main currencies at the end of the fourth quarter, compared to a year before, is considered a significant factor in the attraction for foreign visitors. Gutierrez added that the number of foreign visitors to the US is forecasted to expand 21% in the next five years reaching 61.6 million in 2011. The report also reveals that foreign visitors spent a record 107.5 billion US dollars last year, 5% over 2005. The report on the fourth quarter shows that the number of air flights increased 6.5% after having dropped 11.8% in the third quarter, while spending in lodging jumped 16.7% after having contracted 4.3% in the third quarter. According to the US Department of Commerce the tourism industry in the US generates employment, --goods and services--, for 8.3 million people, of which 5.7 million direct jobs such as airline pilots, hotels' staff, salespeople, etc. and 2.6 million indirect jobs