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Service Industries, Travel and Tourism

Natchez Trace Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, popular national park, national monuments, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the largest service industries in the United States is travel and tourism. In 1997, individual U.S. citizens took 1.3 billion trips within the United States to destinations that were at least 100 miles (equivalent to 160 km) from home. In increasing numbers, domestic and foreign travelers are visiting theme parks, natural wonders, and points of interest in major cities, and the convention business is booming. New York City is a popular destination, and tourism is a mainstay of the economies of California, Florida, and Hawaii.

In recent decades, visitors from overseas have become an increasingly important part of the U.S. tourism business. In 1970 about 2.3 million overseas visitors came to the United States, spending $889 million. By 1997 the number of overseas visitors—chiefly from western Europe, Japan, Latin America, and the Caribbean—was 48 million. Millions of visitors from Canada and Mexico also cross the border every year. Estimated annual expenditures in the United States by Canadian travelers totaled $6 billion, and spending by Mexicans was $5 billion.

America’s historic sites and national parks draw many visitors. In 1998, 287 million visits were made to the more than 350 areas administered by the National Park Service. Millions of people each year visit the national monuments, buildings, and museums in the Washington, D.C., area. More than 14 million visits are made annually to Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco region. More than 19 million people per year travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, and about 6 million visit the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Located within a day’s drive from most parts of the eastern United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the United States, receiving nearly 10 million visitors annually.

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