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BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI-The US Department of Commerce says its partner in a new study just may be in the right line of business. Just in time for Christmas, the commerce department and locally based Taubman Centers Inc. says a new study shows shopping continues to rank the highest on the list of activities overall for international visitors who travel to the US.

Almost nine out of 10 visitors from overseas and Mexico who flew to the US, 87%, shopped during their visit in the US in 2003. That’s about 16.8 million shoppers.

While shopping is the No. 1 activity for international travelers, they also want to explore the culture and ethnicity of the place they are visiting. Taubman and the commerce department teamed up to study the correlation between shopping and cultural tourism. The 2004 report is a follow-up to a similar study developed four years ago. It compares and contrasts shoppers and cultural shoppers to the US from the top four international markets between 2003 and 1997 and examines trip planning, travel characteristics, travel behavior and expenditures.

“It’s clear that international travelers play a significant role in the American retail marketplace,” explains Karen Mac Donald, director of communications at Taubman. “This study illustrates the value of combining both shopping and cultural tourism to create a more well rounded travel experience for the international travelers.”

The findings show the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico (air only) and Germany lead in terms of sending international shoppers to the US. Across those four markets, cultural shoppers (those who both shop and participate in a cultural activity such as attending a concert or visiting a national park or museum) report longer stays of at least two more nights and higher spending levels than general travelers and shoppers. Cultural shoppers also visit a greater number of states and are more likely to be new-to-market travelers.

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