Travel & Tourism in the Americas

Tourism dynamic in Americas buoyed by strong US dollar

In the Americas (+6%), according to UNWTO, all four subregions continued to enjoy significant growth in the first four months of 2016, led by Central America and South America (both at +7%). Arrivals in the Caribbean (+6%) and North America (+5%) were fuelled by continued strong outbound demand from the United States, where tourism expenditure increased by 9% through May.

The USA remains the number one destination globally in terms of tourist spending, with a total of US$178bn in 2015, ahead of China with US$114bn, Spain with US$57bn and France in fourth position with US$46bn. By the same token, spending by US tourists globally amounted to US$120bn.

In the full year 2015, UNWTO says international tourist arrivals to the Americas progressed by 5% compared to 2014. Although the growth is still higher by one per cent point of the world average (4%), 2015 results marked a deceleration compared to 2014 when growth to the Americas topped 8.4%.


From January 5, 2015 to January 5, 2016, the Trade Weighted U.S. Dollar Index against major other currencies advanced from 86.25 to 95.15. During the first quarter of 2015, Citibank even found that America’s greenback had enjoyed its fastest rise in 40 years, according to Citibank, up by 14%.

The increase affected tourist arrivals from traditional inbound markets to the United States such as Europe with the Euro value down by 20% to the dollar compared to a year earlier. The US dollar strengthened also by 10% to the Yen, by 12% to the Canadian dollar, by 15% to the Mexican Peso or by 40% to the Brazilian Real.

The Americas still managed to welcome some 9 million more international arrivals in 2015 reaching a total of 191m international tourists, representing 16% of the world’s total. By sub-region, the Caribbean and Central America recorded the best results with tourist arrivals up for both regions by over 7%. In the Caribbean, the historical normalisation of relations between the USA and Cuba translated already by a tremendous jump in total arrivals to the Caribbean Island. Cuba’s total arrivals last year reached 3.1m international visitors, a growth of 17.5% over the previous year.

Central America’s strong performance was due to a major increase in total US arrivals combined with dynamic marketing campaigns and a development of air routes. Costa Rica’s total tourist arrivals were up by 9% to 2.66m international tourists, while Panama saw both arrivals and revenues from foreign visitors growing respectively by 6.9% to 7.1m and by 13.5% to US$ 4.19bn.

Brazil, hosting the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, was due to attract 500,000 to 600,000 tourists during the two-week event. However, the outbreak of the Zika virus may have had a slight dampening effect on total arrivals.

Tourist Arrivals in 2015 (ml)

Growth 2015/2014 (%)




North America






Central America



South America



Source: UNWTO