International travelers to the U.S increased by 6.7 percent in 2005, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. During 2004 and 2005 international travelers to the U.S. increased by 20.3 percent, the largest two-year increase since 1996, but below 2000 and 2001 levels, the firm found.

Following 10 quarter-over-prior-year quarter declines beginning the first quarter of 2001, international travelers increased during the fourth quarter of 2003 and have achieved robust gains since then. A number of factors, including lingering travel concerns, a global economic slowdown and more strict visa and immigration procedures contributed to the declines in international travelers.

Some of the factors contributing to the recovery in international travelers include:

Global economic performance has accelerated.

- The dollar remains weak relative to most currencies and is forecast to continue modest declines through 2007, which will encourage increases in international travelers.

- The Department of Commerce has initiated marketing activities to increase awareness and develop a positive image of the United States as a tourism destination. The U.S. promotional campaigns were started in the United Kingdom and Japan in December 2004 and May 2005, respectively.

As of 2005 international travelers to the U.S. - excluding Mexico and Canada - had reached 22 million, representing 83.5 percent of the peak of 26 million reached in 2000.

In 2000, international guest room nights accounted for 12.8 percent of total U.S. lodging demand. That share declined to a low of 9.5 percent in 2003. As of year-end 2005, the share of international guest room nights had increased to 10.3 percent of U.S. lodging demand.

"The return of international travelers is especially important - international travelers have longer lengths of stay, pay higher room rates and spend more in other hotel departments including restaurants, business centers, retail outlets, communication, laundry and valet," adds Bjorn Hanson, Ph.D., a principal with the Hospitality & Leisure practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.