- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Roughly 75 million foreign citizens visited the U.S. in 2014, making it the nation’s best year for international tourism, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

“The United States continues to be the premier destination for international visitors,” said Stefan Selig, the under secretary of Commerce for International Trade. “It also highlights that we remain on track toward achieving President Obama’s goal of attracting 100 million international visitors to the United States by 2021,” he said.

The 75 million visitors represent a seven percent increase from 2013, data shows. The Commerce Department estimates that foreign tourism supports 1.1 million U.S. jobs, plus the economic benefits to restaurants, shops and landmarks that tourists visit.

By 2019, the agency estimates that tourism could contribute nearly $300 billion to the U.S. economy.

Canada and Mexico remained the most common origin for visitors to the U.S. The other top nations were the U.K., Japan, Brazil, China, Germany and France.

In February, the Commerce Department sent a plan of action to President Obama with suggestions for increasing tourism to the United States. Many of the suggestions focused on streamlining the visa process for foreign visitors, trying to reduce their wait time to get through passport checkpoints and moving to electronic forms by eliminating paper documents.

Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. had a relatively low wait time, Commerce officials said. Only two percent of all foreign visitors spent an hour or longer before they were cleared to leave the airport and start their visit.

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