Nearly 34.6 million international travelers visited the United States in the first half of this year, a better-than-expected 9 percent increase over the same period a year ago, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce. But could Ebola fears reverse the trend in the coming months?
Probably not, industry experts say. "We don't see this affecting the global or U.S. travel and tourism numbers," said Max Rayner, a partner at Hudson Crossing travel consultancy—as long as the disease is contained.
So far, health officials seem confident that it will be.
"Ebola can be scary. But there's all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading," Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assured reporters on Tuesday after the first U.S. case was confirmed in Texas. "I have no doubt that we will contain this," he said.
The disease has had an impact on travel to the hardest-hit areas in West Africa, where more than 6,500 cases have been reported and nearly 3,100 people have died. After remaining fairly steady through the beginning of the summer, searches to Western African destinations plummeted 65 percent in August, according to an analysis of online searches on the travel-planning site Hopper, conducted at CNBC's request.
The U.N. World Tourism Organization acknowledged in August that the Ebola outbreak could affect tourism to the region "due to misperceptions about the transmission of the virus."