Chapter 3 North American Travel Trends

Chapter 3
North American Travel Trends

Cars crossing U.S. border.Over 85 percent of U.S.-international travel is with Canada and Mexico. Almost three-fourths of this travel, about 220 million visits, took place between the United States and Mexico with the remaining 70 million visits between the United States and Canada.

The number of same-day visits between the United States and Mexico far exceeds those between the United States and Canada—189 million visits versus 42 million visits in 2004. The 116 million same-day visits by Mexican residents to the United States in 2004 was slightly above 2000 levels, but this masks sizable reductions in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Mexican residents used motor vehicles in about 700,000 fewer same-day visits in 2004 than in 2000 while using “other” modes, including walking and bicycling, in 924,000 more same-day U.S. visits. U.S. residents made 9 million fewer same-day visits to Mexico in 2004 than in 2000, a drop of 12 percent. Same-day visits to Mexico by U.S. residents in vehicles were down 13 percent over that same time period.

Same-day travel between the United States and Canada declined between 2000 and 2004. Canadian residents made 21 percent fewer same-day visits to the United States in 2004 than in 2000. The biggest decline in absolute numbers was in visits by Canadians in personal vehicles—5.6 million fewer visits in 2004 than 2000. In percentage terms, air travel to the United States fell the most—almost 45 percent, although the number of visits involved was small.

U.S. residents made fewer same-day visits to Canada in each successive year between 2000 and 2004. By 2004, they made 32 fewer same-day visits than in 2000. While the reduction was apparent in all modes of transportation, 8.8 million fewer same-day visits were made in personal vehicles in 2004 than in 2000.

Canadian residents made somewhat more overnight visits to the United States than Mexican residents—13.9 million versus 11.9 million in 2004. Canadian residents made 5 percent fewer overnight visits to the United States in 2004 than in 2000, a decline largely due to a 15-percent reduction in travel by air. Meanwhile, Mexican residents made 1.3 million more overnight visits to the United States in 2004 than in 2000, a 12-percent increase. In 2004, Mexican residents increased their use of air transportation by 22 percent and their use of vehicles or other land transportation by 11 percent in making these overnight visits.

U.S. residents made about 4.3 million more overnight visits to Mexico than they did to Canada in 2004. After three years of decline, there was a strong rebound in overnight visits by U.S. residents to Mexico in 2004, resulting in a slight increase of 85,000 visits over the level in 2000. Interestingly, U.S. residents used air travel in one million more overnight visits to Mexico in 2004 than in 2000, while using cars or other land transportation in about 900,000 fewer visits.

U.S. residents’ overnight travel to Canada fl uctuated widely between 2000 and 2004, reaching the high point in 2002 and the low point in 2003 over the 5-year period. As a result of a rebound in 2004, only slightly fewer U.S. residents made overnight visits to Canada compared to 2000 levels.

Table 3.1

  • U.S.-Mexican overnight travel data is limited to land and air modes, with land transportation accounting for 85 percent of overnight visits by Mexican residents to the United States, and 60 percent of U.S. residents entering Mexico for an overnight visit.
  • In 2004, travelers used personal vehicles as their mode of transportation in over 60 percent of the overnight visits between the United States and Canada, with air used for most of the remaining travel.

Table 3.2

Table 3.3

  • There were approximately 312 million incoming passenger crossings into the United States at land border crossings with Canada and Mexico in 2004, a decrease of about 20 percent from the 386 million crossings in 2000. Over four-fifths of crossings in 2004 (82 percent) were in personal vehicles; the remainder of the land border crossings were on foot or by bus or train.
  • There were approximately 122 million personal vehicle crossings at land border crossings into the United States from Canada and Mexico in 2004. This was a 3-percent increase from 2003 but a 5-percent decrease from the 128 million crossings in 2000.
  • Mexico accounted for approximately three-quarters of the total personal vehicles and passengers entering the United States at land border crossings in 2004.
  • In 2004, an average of 665,000 passengers entered the United States from Mexico per day at land border crossings, down from 795,000 per day in 2000. The nearly 70 million passenger crossings into the United States from Canada in 2004 averaged about 191,000 a day, a decrease from 262,000 per day in 2000.

Figure 3.1A, Figure 3.1B, Figure 3.1C, and Figure 3.1D

  • The most popular way to enter the United States at land gateways from both Canada and Mexico is by car or other personal vehicle—65 million passengers from Canada, and 191 million passengers from Mexico in 2004.
  • The 48 million pedestrians entering the United States at border crossings with Mexico in 2004 accounted for nearly one in five of all people entering from these crossings. This compares to slightly more than 1 in every 100 entering the United States from Canada.
  • Fewer passengers crossed by bus into the United States from Mexico than Canada in 2004 (3.4 million and 3.9 million, respectively). Bus crossings constituted 1.4 percent of crossings from Mexico and 6 percent of those from Canada in 2004.

Table 3.4

  • Two land crossings on our southern border with Mexico—San Ysidro, Califorinia, and El Paso, Texas— on average handled about as many personal vehicles as all the land crossings on the Canadian border combined (26.7 vs. 25.2 percent).
  • Eight of the top 10 land border ports for incoming personal vehicles were along the Mexican border. Mexican border crossings account for 75 percent of the personal vehicles entering the United States from Canada and Mexico.

Figure 3.2

  • Sixteen land border crossings on the southern border handled at least 1 million vehicles crossing into the United States in 2004 compared to 7 that handled at least 1 million vehicles on the northern border.
  • The southern border had four land crossings that handled 7 million or more personal vehicle crossings each, and four more that handled between 3.75 million and 7 million each. The two largest crossings on the northern border handled between 3.75 and 7 million personal vehicle crossings each.

Table 3.5

  • Both U.S. and Canadian residents cited pleasure and tourism as the primary purpose for a majority of their overnight visits to the other country. Visiting family and friends was a distant second, with business third.
  • In 2004, there was less U.S.-Canada travel in most categories than in 2000. However, there was modest growth in the number of Canadians making overnight trips to the United States to visit family and friends, and Americans traveling to Canada on overnight business trips.
  • Between 2003 and 2004, Canadian resident visits to the United States increased 9.4 percent for overnight visits and 3.3 percent for same-day visits. U.S. resident travel to Canada also increased in this time period for overnight visits (6 percent), but declined for same-day visits (8.2 percent).

Table 3.6

  • There were 3.2 million more people taking cruises marketed and sold in North America in 2004 than in 2000. The total number of these cruise passengers in 2004 was nearly 10.5 million.
  • In 2004, nearly 80 percent (8.3 million) of the total passengers on cruises marketed and sold in North America (10.5 million) were from the United States, down from 84 percent in 2000.
  • Passengers from countries outside North America accounted for 15 percent in 2004, up from 9 percent in 2000.
  • The number of passengers from overseas taking trips on cruises marketed and sold in North America increased 138 percent from 2000 compared to 2004.