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Report: US losing travelers to Europe

LONDON -- The United States is losing business travelers to Europe because of the stringent security measures it imposes on international visitors, according to a report by a tourism industry group.

Europe, meanwhile, is failing to fully capitalize on increased interest from Asian travelers because many countries do not have adequate services and infrastructure for that burgeoning market.

The World Travel Market 2006 report, conducted by Euromonitor International and released yesterday, said total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent to 7 million in the 2004-2005 period, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent, to 84 million.

Euromonitor spokesman Clement Wong said the trend away from North America was likely to intensify as security restrictions continue, making obtaining visas more difficult.

"Rather than travel to the US, business travelers and leisure travelers are coming to Europe," he said at the opening of the four-day World Travel Market in London. More than 48,000 people are attending the event.

Fiona Jeffrey, managing director of World Travel Market, said international tourism spending is now valued at $2 billion per day, with Africa maintaining the fastest growth in 2005, nearly 8 percent.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization unveiled new figures showing that global tourism is growing strongly in 2006, for the third consecutive year. It said strong growth in the first eight months meant that full-year growth was likely to be 4.6 percent, in contrast to earlier estimates of 4.2 percent. However, growth is expected to slow to closer to 4 percent next year because of rising interest rates, a weakening US dollar, and high fuel prices.

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