The positive announcement has been welcomed by the US theme park and amusements industry, which relies heavily on foreign tourists.

The Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, which publishes US visitation data for more than 200 foreign countries, forecasted the first year of decline in 2009 since 2003.

Indeed, reflective of the current global economic environment, international travel is forecasted to fall by eight per cent this year.  

Looking further into the statistics, the OTTI said 24 of the top 25 arrival markets are estimated to decline in 2009. The largest decreases will be from Ireland (-13 per cent), Spain (-12 per cent), and Mexico (-11 per cent). The UK, France and Italy are each expected to post 10 per cent declines for the year.

This downturn, however, is met by a projected rebound of three per cent growth by the end of 2010, followed by five per cent annual increases through 2013, the OTTI said.

In the long term, it is estimated that the number of foreign tourists visiting the US will rise by 10 per cent between 2008 and 2013, reaching a record 64 million travellers.