HOUSTON (March 20, 2015) - A new report from the U.S. Commerce Department shows international visitation to Houston increased 17% between 2013 and 2014, the second-largest increase among leading U.S. destinations for global travelers.

Nearly 873,000 people traveled to Houston from overseas in 2014, up from 746,000 in 2013, according to the report, which excludes travelers from Mexico and Canada. The only other U.S. destination among the top 15 to experience a bigger increase was Fort Lauderdale, which saw 651,300 travelers in 2014, an increase of 40% over the previous year. In 2013, Houston saw the largest year-over-year increase in international visitation in the U.S., rising 22%.

The number of international travelers is a record for Houston, which continued to expand its global air lift out of Bush Intercontinental Airport in 2014 with new flights to Asia Pacific and Europe. This year, Southwest Airlines will launch new international flights out of Hobby Airport to Mexico and possibly Costa Rica and Belize. The airline expects it will add 1.5 million new inbound and outbound international travelers to Houston annually.

"There is no question that our expanding promotional efforts in the international markets are taking effect," says Jorge Franz, senior vice president of tourism for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This is the second year in a row that Houston has experienced this kind of strong growth. If you add to that the efforts of the Houston Airport System to attract more international carriers to Houston along with the robust presence of the energy, medical, logistics and aerospace sectors in the international markets, then you see why Houston is experiencing such explosive growth in the number of visitors it attracts."

Nationwide, a record 75 million international travelers came to the U.S. in 2014, up 7% from 2013, the Commerce Department report shows. That's a step toward President Obama's stated goal of bringing 100 million global travelers to the country by 2021. The National Travel and Tourism Office estimates that international visitors bring $222 billion into the U.S. economy annually.

Click here for more details from the Commerce Department.



A.J. Mistretta

Leah Fillion