The Brookings Institution finds that 17 metropolitan areas accounted for nearly three-quarters of all international transfer passengers starting or ending their trip in the U.S.. Atlanta topped the list of gateway cities, accounting for more than 6 million such passengers last year. Houston ranked fifth with nearly 4 million.
That gives Houston a major boost in terms of foreign trade, according to Adie Tomer, co-author of the study.
“When non-U.S. citizens come to the United States, or even purchase air fares on a U.S. carrier, that’s actually counted as an export for the United States. So people traveling around Houston, just seeing the sites, going to the great museums, they actually count as an export for the Houston economy, just as well as selling oil, let’s say, to a foreign market.”
The overwhelming majority of international traffic through Houston connects domestic airports with Latin America and the Caribbean. But the city is also rapidly growing in importance as a hub connecting the U.S. with sub-Saharan Africa and with Southeast Asia.