A combination of new international flights, major conventions with global clientele and a burgeoning film sector has driven up international visitor arrivals in Atlanta by 5 percent to 1.25 million in 2017.
That’s still a minuscule proportion for a city that serves as a hub for regional tourism and large international trade shows, hosting more than 53 million visitors overall and boasting the world’s busiest airport.
But the longer-term positive trends belie the modest annual growth — international arrivals are up 20 percent since 2012, according to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, which released the numbers June 14.
And overseas is where new growth will come from in both sheer numbers and in revenue, as foreign travelers are known to splurge more than their domestic counterparts on airfare and retail in the U.S.
“International visitation is our greatest incremental growth opportunity as we close the decade,” said William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a news release. “Even as our domestic tourism business expands, we must continue our efforts to attract visitors to Atlanta from around the world.”
Canada, Europe and Asia still represent the top regions of origin for inbound travelers, accounting for 29, 25 and 21 percent, respectively, ACVB said.
The countries showing the most consistent growth, however, all lie in Asia, and they happen to correspond well with Georgia’s top international student populations. That makes sense at a glance, given that families often do tourism when visiting their children. China, India and South Korea have all seen their tourist traffic to Atlanta increasing by at least 60 percent since five years ago, the ACVB said.
Routes play a major role. Delta Air Lines and Korean Air both operate nonstop flights to Seoul, the South Korean capital. Delta is starting a China flight in July (Atlanta-Shanghai) and plans to open a new route to Mumbai, India, next year, though Atlanta’s hometown airline hasn’t said for certain whether that will be from here or another gateway.
Flights from Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and Qatar Airways to Doha also came on line in 2016, offering new opportunities for travelers to reach Atlanta.