Writing in Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes that the “United States is the only major country in the world to which travel has declined amid a tourist boom”. He’s arguing that the country has made itself too unwelcoming to bona fide tourists. He cites some genuinely disturbing cases, but let’s take a closer look at some of the broader data. Yes, visitors to the US fell sharply between 2000 and 2001 from 51.2 million to 47 million, but that was for reasons that need no further explanation. Totals continued to fall in the two following years – to 41.2 million in 2003. They have, however, since picked up sharply, rising by nearly 25% between 2003-06 to reach 51.1 million in that latter year. The Commerce Department is forecasting an increase to 54 million this year, a record.
Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that the numbers could have been higher (global tourism has, as Zakaria correctly points out, been booming), but to think that these figures in themselves represent some sort of crisis would be a mistake.