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Mon 2 Apr 2012 12:21 PM

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MidEast visitors to US rose 10% in 2011

Region now makes up 1.3% of tourists to US, but other markets falling

MidEast visitors to US rose 10% in 2011
Statue of liberty, US flag

More than 800,000 people in the Middle East travelled to the US for tourism purposes in 2011, a ten percent year-on-year rise, according to official US figures.

Last year, 810,688 tourists from the region made the the journey, an annual rise of 10.2 percent, according to figures from the Washington DC-based Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, which is part of the US Department of Commerce.

The most popular months for visitors to the states were the summer months of July and August, with 98,731 and 95,243 visitors respectively. The least popular months proved to be February and March.

The US attracted around 62m visitors in 2011 in total, meaning Middle East visitors accounted for just 1.3 percent of inbound traffic.

Despite this, the US market has begun to look to the lucrative Arab market to help boost falling visitor numbers from the UK, one of its biggest markets, which saw a 0.4 percent decline in tourists in 2011, as well as Japan, which was down four percent and the Caribbean, which tumbled nine percent.

Hawaii has even recruited a number of regional tourism ambassadors to help promote the US state to Arab sun seekers. The Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) has linked up with the Unique Choice travel agency in Doha and the National Vocation Company in Saudi Arabia to market the US-run Pacific Ocean islands.

HiTA has also appointed tourism ambassadors in both Gulf countries and will host a marketing event for Arab travel agents at the International Pow Wow conference in Los Angeles next month, with agents from Saudi, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman due to attend.

“I am pleased to see we're now able to reach out to these high-spending visitors from the Gulf region. We hope the visitor industry in Hawaii will share our excitement and help us to make this event a success for everyone,” said Juergen Steinmetz, president of HiTA.

“Currently, we are generating increasing travel from new regions around the globe. We have ambassadors appointed in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, India, Singapore, Colombia, Slovenia, Austria, Nepal, Russia, and are going through applications received from 88 countries,” he added.

Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Saudi Airlines and Kuwait Air all have direct access to US gateways.

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