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International travelers to the US spent a record $222 billion in 2014

Posted at 1:35 PM, Mar 06, 2015

Neither epic ice storms, Ebola outbreaks nor rising air fares slowed travel to the U.S. last year, as international visitors spent a record $222 billion while in the country, according to a new federal estimate.

Spending by international visitors to the U.S. increased 4 percent last year, compared to 2013, when travelers from abroad spent $215 billion to fly into and stay in the country, according to an estimate released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

International travelers spent $43 billion on travel expenses, with the remaining $179 billion going toward hotels, food, drinks, souvenirs and other expenses, according to the report.

In contrast, Americans spent an estimated $147 billion to travel abroad, resulting in a $75.7 billion trade surplus, according to the report.

Domestic and international travel has been on the rise in the last few years, thanks partly to a stronger economy, improving consumer confidence in the U.S. and a boon in spending among the middle class in Asia and South America.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association, also attributed the rising travel numbers to policies adopted by the Obama administration to make it easier for travelers in China and Brazil to get visas, as well as other efforts to boost international visitation numbers.

"The record level of spending by international travelers to the U.S. last year is rock-solid proof that implementing traveler-friendly policies to encourage more visitors to our shores, combined with a robust U.S.A. marketing campaign, pays off and pays off big," he said. "Our economy not only benefits but so does the American worker, through the creation of 1.2 million jobs that can't be outsourced."

The travel boom has come despite thousands of flights canceled because of ice storms in February 2014, an Ebola scare in October and rising air fares and passenger fees throughout the year.