New Visa spending data shows that more people are traveling the globe for business and pleasure, a positive sign that the world economy is strengthening.
Americans traveling abroad used their Visa cards to spend $31 billion in 2010, a 6 percent increase from 2009. Major sporting events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games were some key draws for U.S. travelers. Meanwhile, international visitors to the U.S. last year put $34 billion on credit, debit, prepaid and commercial cards issued by Visa, up 18 percent from 2009.
Canadians traveling in the U.S. spent the most, $9.2 billion versus $7.8 billion in 2009. British travelers spent the next highest sum — $2.5 billion — and residents of Mexico spent $2 billion. The fourth-largest dollar amount spent in the U.S. using Visa cards came from Brazilians, whose spending surged 60 percent to $1.9 billion from 2009 levels.
Japanese and Chinese Visa-cardholders contributed $1.8 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively, to the U.S. economy during their visits. The three states drawing the most international travel dollars in 2010, according to Visa, were Florida ($6.6 billion), New York ($5.6 billion) and California ($5.4 billion).
Lodging and restaurants both benefitted from significant double-digit increases from inbound and outbound tourism spending -- a stark contrast to the declines of 2008 and 2009.
Visa Inc. spokesman Paul Wilke, who specializes in travel and tourism for the company, said Brazilians are the new global travelers to watch. He said Brazilians have increased their spending in countries around the world as fast as they have in the U.S.
Wilke called the figures "encouraging," noting that travel is a strong barometer for future economic activity in the U.S. and around the world.
"People are traveling again," said Wilke. "We're returning to pre-recession levels."
The figures include all spending when card holders are outside their home country, including both business and leisure travel. Wilke estimated that vacations account for more than half of all travel spending.
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