Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Bay Lake, Florida is the most visited theme park in the world. In 2016, Orlando, Florida was the most visited destination in the United States, and continues to be one of the most visited destinations in the world.
The Grand Canyon of Arizona attracts approximately 4.41 million visitors annually.

In the United States, tourism is a large industry that serves millions of international and domestic tourists yearly. Foreigners visit the U.S. to see natural wonders, cities, historic landmarks, and entertainment venues. Americans seek similar attractions, as well as recreation and vacation areas.

Tourism in the United States grew rapidly in the form of urban tourism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the 1850s, tourism in the United States was well established both as a cultural activity and as an industry. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, all major U.S. cities, attracted numerous tourists since the 1890s. By 1915, city touring had marked significant shifts in the way Americans perceived, organized, and moved.

During the early 20th century, many more people started to travel, partly because of the spread of the automobile. Similarly air travel revolutionized travel during 1945–1969, contributing greatly to tourism in the United States. Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $10.9 billion during February 2013.[1]

The travel and tourism industries in the United States were among the first economic sectors negatively affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the U.S., tourism is among the three largest employers in 29 states, employing 7.3 million in 2004, to take care of 1.19 billion trips tourists took in the U.S. in 2005.[citation needed] As of 2007, there are 2,462 registered National Historic Landmarks (NHL) recognized by the United States government. As of 2018, New York City is the most visited destination in the United States, followed by Los Angeles, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Chicago.[citation needed]

Tourists spend more money in the United States than in any other country, but the United States attracts only the third-highest number of tourists, after France and Spain.[2][3] The discrepancy may be explained by longer stays in the US.[3]

19th century

The rise of urban tourism in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represented a major cultural transformation concerning urban space and leisure natural activity and as an industry.[clarification needed] Package tours did not exist until the 1870s and 1880s, when entrepreneurs of various sorts from hotel keepers and agents for railroad lines to artists and writers recognized the profit to be gained from the prospering tourism industry.[4][5] The rise of locomotive steam-powered trains during the 1800s enabled tourists to travel more easily and quickly.[6]

In the United States, 2,800 miles (4,500 km) of rail track had been completed by 1840, by 1860 all major eastern US cities were linked by rail, and by 1869 the first trans-American railroad link was completed.[7] Yosemite Park was developed as a tourist attraction in the late 1850s and early 1860s for an audience who wanted a national icon and place to symbolize exotic wonder of its region.[4] Photography played an important role for the first time in the development of tourist attractions, making it possible to distribute hundreds of images showing various places of interest.[4]

New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco were all attracting numerous tourists by the 1890s.[8] New York's population grew from 300,000 in 1840 to 800,000 in 1850.[9] Chicago experienced a dramatic increase from 4,000 residents in 1840 to 300,000 by 1870. Dictionaries first published the word 'tourist' sometime in 1800[citation needed][Do you mean the 19th century?], when it[clarification needed] referred to those going to Europe or making a round trip of natural wonders in New York and New England. There was not much urban tourism during the 19th century, perhaps because American cities lacked the architecture and art which attracted thousands to Europe. American cities tended to offend the sensitive with ugliness and commercialism rather than inspire awe or aesthetic pleasure.[10] Some tourists were fascinated by the rapid growth of the new urban areas: "It is an absorbing thing to watch the process of world-making; both the formation of the natural and the conventional world," wrote English writer Harriet Martineau in 1837.[11]

The Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts was one of several institutions classed as tourist attractions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As American cities developed, new institutions to accommodate and care for the insane, disabled and criminal were constructed. The Hartford, Connecticut American School for the Deaf opened in 1817, Ossining, New York state prison (now known as Sing Sing) in 1825, the Connecticut State Penitentiary at Wethersfield in 1827, Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831, the Perkins School for the Blind in 1832, and the Worcester State Hospital in 1833.[12] These institutions attracted the curiosity of American and foreign visitors. The English writer and actress Fanny Kemble, an admirer of the American prison system, was also concerned that nature was being destroyed in favor of new developments. Guidebooks published in the 1830s, 40s and 50s described new prisons, asylums and institutions for the deaf and blind, and urged tourists to visit these sights.[13]

Accounts of these visits written by Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, Lydia Sigourney and Caroline Gilman were published in magazines and travel books.[13] Sigourney's Scenes in My Native Land (1845) included descriptions of her tour of Niagara Falls and other places of scenic interest with accounts of her visits to prisons and asylums.[13] Many visited these institutions because nothing like them had existed before.[14] The buildings which housed them were themselves monumental, often placed on hilltops as a symbol of accomplishment.[14]

Early tourism

The Art Deco district of South Beach in Miami was developed during the 1930s.

By 1915, city touring had marked significant shifts in the way Americans perceived, organized and moved around in urban environments.[8] Urban tourism became a profitable industry in 1915 as the number of tour agencies, railroad passenger departments, guidebook publishers and travel writers grew at a fast pace.[8] The expense of pleasure tours between 1850 and 1915 meant that only a minority of Americans could experience the luxury of tourism.[8] Many Americans traveled to find work, but few found time for enjoyment of the urban environment. As transportation networks improved, the length of commuting decreased, and income rose.[8] A growing number of Americans were able to afford short vacations by 1915. Still, mass tourism was not possible until after World War II.[8]

During the 19th century, tourism of any form had been available only to the upper and middle classes. This changed during the early 20th century. In 1895, popular publications printed articles showing the car was cheaper to operate than the horse.[15] The development of automobiles in the early 1900s included the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908. In 1900, 8,000 cars were registered in the US, but this had increased to 619,000 by 1911.[16] By the time of the Model T's introduction in 1908, there were 44 US households per car.[16] Early cars were a luxury for the wealthy, but after Ford began to dramatically drop prices after 1913, more were able to afford one.[17]

The development of hotels with leisure complexes had become popular in the U.S. during the 1930s.[18] The range of club type holidays available appealed to a broad segment of the holiday market.[18] As more families traveled independently by car, hotels failed to cater to their needs.[18] Kemmons Wilson opened the first motel as a new form of accommodation in Memphis, Tennessee in 1952.[18]

Although thousands of tourists visited Florida during the early 1900s, it was not until after World War II that the tourist industry quickly became Florida's largest source of income.[19] Florida's white sandy beaches, warm winter temperatures and wide range of activities such as swimming, fishing, boating and hiking all attracted tourists to the state. During the 1930s, architects designed Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach.[20] Visitors are still attracted to the Art Deco district of Miami.[20] Theme parks were soon built across Florida. One of the largest resorts in the world, Walt Disney World Resort, was opened near Orlando, Florida in 1971.[21] In its first year, the 28,000-acre (110 km2) park added $14 billion to Orlando's economy.

Late 20th century

The Douglas DC-4 was one of the first airliners used for U.S. commercial flights.

The revolution of air travel between 1945 and 1969 contributed greatly to tourism in the United States. In that quarter century, commercial aviation evolved from 28-passenger airliners flying at less than 200 mph (320 km/h) to 150-passenger jetliners cruising continents at 600 mph (970 km/h).[22] During this time, air travel in the U.S. evolved from a novelty into a routine for business travelers and vacationers alike. Rapid developments in aviation technology, economic prosperity in the United States and the demand for air travel all contributed to the early beginnings of commercial aviation in the US.[22]

During the first four decades of the 20th century, long-haul journeys between large American cities were accomplished using trains. By the 1950s, air travel was part of everyday life for many Americans.[22] This was also helped by the establishment of the Interstate Highway System as well as the reliance of automobiles of which Americans saw cars as their new personal found freedom and enjoyment. The tourism industry in the U.S. experienced exponential growth as tourists could travel almost anywhere with a fast, reliable and routine system.[22] For some, a vacation in Hawaii was now a more frequent pleasure. Air travel changed everything from family vacations to Major League Baseball, as had steam-powered trains in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[22]

By the end of the twentieth century, tourism had significantly grown throughout the world. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO, 1998) recorded that, in 1950, arrivals of tourists from abroad, excluding same-day visits, numbered about 25.2 million.[23] By 1997, the figure was 612.8 million. In 1950 receipts from international movements were US$ 2.1 billion, in 1997 they were $443.7 billion.[23]

It was also during the late 20th century that individual states began to adopt their own tourism slogans, with the aim to increase both domestic and international visitors. Some of these slogans slogans have become iconic to the state itself, such as Michigan's "Pure Michigan" campaign, New York's "I Love New York" merchandise, and Virginia's "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan. Other states adopted slogans based on civilian submissions, such as Pennsylvania holding the "Penn a Phrase" contest, in which the slogan "Pursue Your Happiness" was ultimately selected. Some slogans became the targets of campaigns to rename them launched by state residents, such as a failed 2013 campaign to change Kentucky's slogan from "Unbridled Spirit" to "Kentucky Kicks Ass".[24][25]

21st century

The travel and tourism industry in the U.S. was among the first commercial casualties of the September 11 attacks, a series of terrorist attacks on the U.S. Terrorists used four commercial airliners as weapons of destruction, all of which were destroyed in the attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania with nearly 3,000 deaths.[26] In the first full week after flights resumed, passenger numbers fell by nearly 45 percent, from 9 million in the week before September 11 to 5 million.[26] Hotels and travel agencies received cancellations across the world. The hotel industry suffered an estimated $700 million loss in revenue during the four days following the attacks.[26] The situation recovered over the following months as the Federal Reserve kept the financial system afloat. The U.S. Congress issued a $5 billion grant to the nation's airlines and $10 billion in loan guarantees to keep them flying.[26]

In the U.S., tourism is either the first, second, or third largest employer in 29 states, employing 7.3 million in 2004, to take care of 1.19 billion trips tourists took in the U.S. in 2005.[27] The U.S. outbound holiday market is sensitive in the short term, but possibly one of the most surprising results from the September 11, 2001 attacks was that by February 2002 it had bounced back. This quick revival was generally quicker than many commentators had predicted only five months earlier.[28]

The United States economy began to slow significantly in 2007, mostly because of a real-estate slump, gas prices and related financial problems.[29] Many economists believe that the economy entered a recession at the end of 2007 or early in 2008.[29] Some state budgets for tourism marketing have decreased, such as Connecticut which is facing soaring gas prices.[30]

100 million tourists visited Florida in 2015, a record for the nation.[31]


Main article: Tourist attractions in the United States

There exist a broad range of tourist attractions in the United States such as amusement parks, festivals, gambling, golf courses, historical buildings and landmarks, hotels, museums, galleries, outdoor recreation, spas, restaurants and sports.[32]

Travel warnings

After various mass shootings in the U.S., Amnesty International issued a travel warning in August 2019.[33] Some countries have also issued travel warnings.[34]

Visitor statistics

Number of non-immigrant admissions for tourist and business purposes into the United States in 2017
  United States
  Over 2 million admissions
  Over 1 million admissions
  Over 500 thousand admissions
  Over 250 thousand admissions
  Over 100 thousand admissions
  Over 15 thousand admissions
  Under 15 thousand admissions

The highest numbers of non-immigrant admissions into the United States for tourists and for business purposes in fiscal years 2014, 2015 2016 and Jan–Sep 2017 were from the following countries:[35][36][37][38][What does the grey/gray shading mean?]

Country FY 2018 FY 2017 FY2016 FY2015 FY 2014
 Mexico Increase 19,188,018 Decrease 18,101,904 Decrease 18,420,891 Increase 19,175,345 Increase 18,889,281
 Canada Increase 12,313,327 Increase 11,616,347 Decrease 11,366,670 Increase 11,671,122 Increase 11,289,743
 United Kingdom[note 1] Increase 4,930,013 Decrease 4,786,421 Increase 4,930,593 Increase 4,691,874 Increase 4,549,934
 Japan Decrease 3,493,313 Decrease 3,697,844 Decrease 3,717,029 Decrease 3,750,667 Decrease 3,933,941
 China[note 2] Increase 2,991,813 Increase 2,630,300 Increase 2,587,968 Increase 2,309,654 Increase 2,001,302
 South Korea Decrease 2,210,597 Increase 2,324,707 Increase 2,001,417 Increase 1,742,422 Increase 1,576,328
 Germany Decrease 2,062,462 Increase 2,228,358 Decrease 2,190,832 Decrease 2,208,145 Increase 2,283,086
 Brazil Increase 2,209,372 Increase 2,011,385 Decrease 1,866,261 Increase 2,383,822 Increase 2,275,588
 France[note 3] Decrease 1,767,461 Increase 1,923,414 Decrease 1,897,398 Decrease 1,915,725 Increase 1,966,335
 Australia[note 4] Decrease 1,362,431 Increase 1,463,908 Increase 1,423,898 Increase 1,399,615 Increase 1,389,358
 India Increase 1,378,035 Increase 1,264,598 Increase 1,206,225 Increase 1,175,153 Increase 1,111,738
 Italy Decrease 1,073,383 Increase 1,282,989 Increase 1,262,691 Decrease 1,229,115 Increase 1,282,485
 Spain Decrease 1,151,956 Increase 1,037,798 Increase 1,012,133 Decrease 953,969 Increase 955,737
 Argentina Decrease 994,035 Increase 1,085,461 Increase 943,224 Increase 765,576 Increase 730,089
 Colombia Increase 942,617 Increase 926,855 Decrease 885,763 Increase 928,424 Increase 924,916
 Netherlands[note 5] Decrease 725,283 Increase 796,945 Increase 766,691 Decrease 749,826 Increase 766,936
Total (worldwide) Increase 70,056,257 Increase 69,128,433 Increase 69,025,896 Increase 67,519,113

See also


Statistics include territories, as follows.

  1. ^ United Kingdom includes the United Kingdom, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
  2. ^ China includes Hong Kong, and Macau.
  3. ^ France includes France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna.
  4. ^ Australia includes Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
  5. ^ Netherlands includes the Netherlands, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten.


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