The number of international travelers rose slightly in 2017 to 76.9 million. Spending by these visitors hit a record $251.4 billion according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. While the number of international travelers was down slightly from 2015’s all-time high of about 78 million, the strength of visitor numbers helped allay travel industry fears about heightened federal government border and travel ban security policies.
These numbers showed a decided shift in the origin of international visitors as double digit increases in South Korea, Brazil, and Ireland offset not surprising reduced visits from Mexico and the Middle East. Mexican travelers totaled 17.8 million down from 2016’s 19 million, but still represented the U.S.’s number one source of cross-border travelers.
U.S. Travel, a travel industry trade group, noted that U.S. share of total international travel declined from 13.6% in 2015 to a forecasted 12% this year. They also are seeking an expansion of the U.S. visa waiver program beyond the current 38 countries as a means of spurring additional American visits. Under this plan, visitors need only present a passport from their host country to enter the country. South Korean visits jumped after that country was added to the list of visa-exempt nations.
While traditionalists lament the apparent decline of our domestic manufacturing capabilities in today’s global environment, a recently-released Brookings study found that our overall output standing has not changed precipitously since 1970. True, we have fallen to second behind China in total output, but, interestingly, they absorbed the most-labor intensive processes to grow their capabilities. This is evidenced by their 2015 20% global market share requiring a reported 129 million workers at a time when our U.S. 18 % share employed a much more efficient 16 million, down from 1970’s all-time highs of about 20 million jobs.
A national economic strategy should be to cherry-pick back the most attractive jobs that were likely offshored over the past several years which would also help regain the top spot in output. The Trump presidency has shown more interest in reclaiming the manufacturing sector than the prior administration that saw job growth largely occur in the governmental and service sectors.
Clearly, the U.S. has invented, grown and retained the most technically efficient manufacturing processes and industries in the world. In many ways, China is at a point where the U.S. was decades ago. Going forward, it’s important that we protect our most valuable U.S. intellectual property. Equally important is our U.S. cultivation of entrepreneurs and tech-savvy small businesses to further grow tomorrow’s manufacturing innovations . This will ensure our continued dominance on the world productivity stage, and give us added protection in a rapidly confrontational international world of nations.