WASHINGTON – Here’s some good news for meat and poultry processors servicing the US foodservice industry as well as for US restaurants. International visitors to the US are projected to increase 9% in 2010, setting a new record of 60 million visitors in a year, according to the US Department of Commerce. In addition, growth in the travel and tourism industry is projected to increase to nearly 83 million visitors by 2015 – a 51% increase over 2009.

“The travel and tourism industry’s remarkable growth this year is good news for our small- and medium-sized businesses, which account for more than 80 percent of the travel and tourism industry,” said Gary Locke, US Commerce Secretary.

The October forecast represents a significant upward revision from May and reflects robust economic growth forecasted through 2015 from Asia (101%) and South America (92%). Individual country performances over the next five years are expected to be led by China (346%), Brazil (198%), South Korea (171%), and India (123%).

International visitors spent 10% more on travel to the US and tourism activities within the US than they did a year ago, according to the Commerce Department. That's good news for US restaurants, according to the National restaurant Association. These visitors spent an estimated $76.7 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the US during the first seven months of 2010, which is 10% more than in the same period in 2009. July marked the seventh-consecutive month of spending growth by international visitors.

Tourism spending is an important component and driver of restaurant sales growth, NRA relays. NRA research indicates tourists are responsible for anywhere form 15% to 40% of restaurant sales, depending on the restaurant business type.