by Lisa A. Grimaldi | April 10, 2018
The International Trade Administration's National Travel and Tourism Office announced it will suspend data releases on overseas arrivals to the United States, pending resolution of "underlying technical issues with a significant number of records received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection." The NTTO declared that no data regarding international arrivals will be reported by NTTO beyond the preliminary data previously released on March 7, until the records are properly identified, categorized and counted.
In conducting due diligence on records received from CBP on arrivals to the United States in 2017, NTTO said it identified significant and increasing anomalies affecting visitor arrivals data. NTTO uses data gathered by CBP to calculate overseas arrivals to the United States, including people traveling for business, leisure and education, who are staying one night or more. During this process, NTTO said it detected a meaningful and increasing number of non-U.S. citizens traveling on visas to the United States being categorized as U.S. residents. Therefore, the agency said, those travelers were removed from the visitor count of overseas travelers arriving into the United States, resulting in a probable undercount for 2017.
 
"The National Travel and Tourism Office is committed to providing accurate statistics on international travelers to the United States as defined by international standards for the travel and tourism sector," said Isabel Hill, director of the government office. "NTTO is working with CBP and the Department of Homeland Security to resolve these issues. NTTO will resume publication of these data as soon as possible."
 
Following the NTTO's announcement, U.S. Travel Association senior vice president for government relations Tori Barnes issued the following statement:
 
"With international inbound travel being such a critical component of the U.S. trade balance and jobs base, the stakes are very high to have an accurate data picture of overseas visitors to our country. We appreciate CBP's and the Commerce Department's commitment to getting this right. 
 
"Even if changes to the official federal data reveal stronger numbers of visitors to the U.S. in 2017 than previously reported, the fact will remain that while international travel is spiking globally, the U.S. is losing share of that growing market to our competitors around the world. The American travel economy is too important to the president's goals of strong domestic employment and a more favorable U.S. trade balance to allow that trend to continue. That's why the U.S. Travel Association has joined the Visit U.S. Coalition, along with 14 other industry groups, to partner with the administration in addressing the market-share decline that has been going on since 2015."