The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that international visitors spent an estimated $13.9 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the month of September - $512 million more (4 percent) than was spent in September 2011. These strong numbers helped the U.S. see its highest overall September export figures on record.

“The U.S. travel and tourism industry is helping to drive the success of U.S. exports as increased numbers of international visitors come to our shores, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and support our local businesses,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez, in a prepared statement. “The U.S. tourism industry is on pace for yet another record-setting year and represents our fastest growing private services export sector through the first three quarters of 2012. As this Administration continues to put forward policies to strengthen our economy, we are committed to supporting travel and tourism, creating jobs in this important sector, and making America the top destination for international travelers.”

Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $10.7 billion during September, an increase of more than 5 percent when compared to last year. These goods and services include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel.

International visitors have spent an estimated $123.1 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date (January through September), an increase of nearly eight percent when compared to the same period last. Additionally, U.S carriers have received nearly $29.3 billion from international visitors during the first nine months of 2012, the strongest year-to-date performance on record.

Exports of travel and tourism have shown the largest export dollar growth of any services sector with exports up $8.9 billion through the third quarter of 2012 (compared to the same months of 2011). Among goods and services, travel and tourism was the third largest export growth category in terms of dollars through the first three quarters of 2012 behind capital goods and automotive vehicles and parts.