In the first 10 months of 2011, foreign visitors spent $127 billion in the U.S., on pace to top the previous annual high mark in tourist expenditures set in 2008, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Data from the Commerce Department's U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries found international visitors to the U.S. spent $13.1 billion on travel and tourism-related activities in October, a 13% increase over the same month last year.
In all, the agency expects international tourism spending to surpass $152 billion in 2011 -- a sizable increase from the previous record of $141 billion in 2008.
The inflows also top the outflows: U.S. tourists traveling internationally spent an estimated $91.9 billion in the first 10 months of the year, an 8% increase from the same period last year.
The Commerce Department expects even greater tourist spending over the next five years. The greatest spending increases are estimated to come from Canada, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.
This spending is even more likely to rise if the federal government adopts changes to make international tourism easier. Such changes would include speeding up the process for getting tourist visas and expanding the program that waives the visa requirement for more countries, reports the LA Times.
It's estimated that around $10 billion of tourist expenditures this year came from hotels, food, tour packages, and souvenirs.
Increased tourism would be reflected in the prices and decreased vacancies of hotel rooms -- a positive trend for hotel companies. So if you're interested in investing in the tourism industry, hotel stocks may be a good place to start your search.
We list the seven largest U.S. lodging service stocks below -- do you think they will benefit from the trend? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. Marriott International
2. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
3. Hyatt Hotels
4. Wyndham Worldwide
6. Choice Hotels International
7. Gaylord Entertainment
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Data sourced from Finviz.