This month, more than a million visitors from across the country and around the world are coming to our nation’s capital to see the cherry blossom trees that bloom each spring among some of America’s most treasured historical landmarks. From the purchase of airline tickets to dining in area restaurants to staying in hotels, these visitors are infusing millions of dollars into the community and supporting local businesses.
As we search for ways to grow our nation’s economy, we must not overlook the travel and tourism industry as a source for economic opportunity. According to data released by the Commerce Department earlier today, tourism spending increased 8.1 percent in 2011 and supported an additional 103,000 jobs, for a total of 7.6 million jobs.
A big factor in the increase was a surge in international visitors to our country: in 2011, 2.5 million more international visitors came to the United States compared with the previous year. These international visitors spent an all-time record of $153 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services.