Nevada Tops List Of Overseas Visitors

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Nevada's tourism industry posted the nation's best growth rate last year for inbound overseas travelers, according to recently released government data.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Travel and Tourism Industries said Nevada hosted approximately 1.37 million overseas travelers in 2003, up 7 percent from the year before.

Overall, the state enjoyed a 7.6 percent market share of such travelers in the United States, trailing only Florida, New York, California and Hawaii in terms of total overseas visitors hosted.

Travelers from Canada and Mexico were not included in the survey.

Nevada was one of just three of the 34 states and U.S. territories included in the report that posted growth. Indiana also saw a 7 percent increase, albeit on a much smaller scale than Nevada with just 144,000 overseas visitors last year.

Texas' total increased 1 percent to 829,000 such travelers, while more than a dozen other states were not ranked because they did not report sufficient visitor activity.

Most of the U.S. destinations that are traditionally popular with overseas travelers, including the four ranked ahead of Nevada's, reported decreased or unchanged returns last year.

Matt Englehart, spokesman for the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, said his organization did not attempt to break down what caused each state's traveler activity to increase or decrease.

He did say possible reasons for decreases likely include the start of the war in Iraq; ongoing terrorism concerns; struggling economic conditions in many parts of the world; as well as the SARS outbreak in Asia.

While the top four states' percentage falloffs were in the low single-digits, other markets fared much worse.

Illinois, Georgia and Colorado each reported declines in excess of 20 percent, and Minnesota, home to the tourism-dependent Mall of America, reported a 48 percent dip in its overseas tourism last year.

Englehart said Nevada's performance was likely boosted by the addition of new international air service and strong traveler interest in Europe, an explanation that was supported by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"Despite the war, Europe was very strong and the United Kingdom really helped us achieve a general increase to Las Vegas, which represents a large segment of international travel to Nevada," said Kevin Bagger, senior research director for the convention authority.