On April 6, 2018, the International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) announced it will suspend data releases on overseas arrivals to the United States pending resolution of underlying technical issues with a significant number of records received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). NTTO said that its review of 2017 arrivals records from CBP uncovered a meaningful and increasing number of non-U.S. citizens traveling on visas to the United States being categorized as U.S. residents. These travelers were consequently removed from the visitor count of overseas travelers arriving into the United States, resulting in a probable undercount for 2017, NTTO said.
BEA uses the I-94 arrivals data to calculate foreign trade statistics. Expenditures by foreign visitors are counted as U.S. exports of “travel (for all purposes including education).” The I-94 arrivals data are also used to measure exports of air passenger transport, the fares paid by foreign visitors to U.S. air carriers for transportation to and from the United States. These exports are included in BEA’s quarterly U.S. International Transactions Accounts and its monthly U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services report. The trade statistics are subsequently used in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs), where the expenditures of foreign residents are recorded in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as exports of services. In addition, these expenditures are used to derive Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE). Because there is a lag between the month of overseas arrivals and when BEA receives the I-94 source data for that month, BEA routinely estimates overseas visitors using historical trends in the I-94 data series. BEA will use this estimation approach until the I-94 source data are available.
BEA has been working closely with NTTO to assess the extent of the probable undercount of foreign visitors. If NTTO concludes that there has been an undercount, BEA will revise its quarterly and monthly statistics for exports of travel (for all purposes including education) and air passenger transport with the annual update of U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services to be released on June 6, 2018, the annual update of U.S. International Transactions to be released on June 20, 2018, and the comprehensive update of the NIPAs to be released on July 27, 2018.