WASHINGTON (AFP) - A record 62 millioforeigners visited the United States last year, spending $153 billion on travel and tourism-related services, the US govt said Wednesday.

Releasing tourism industry data for 2011, the Commerce Department said spending by domestic as well as international tourists grew 8.1 percent from ayear earlier to $1.2 trillion, “supporting an additional 103,000 jobs for a total of 7.6 million.”

“A big factor in the increase was a surge in international visitors to our country: in 2011, 62 million international visitors came to the United States, an increase of 2.5 million from the year before,” it said.

Just over one million of those additional visitors came from Canada, far and away the leading source of foreign visitors to the United States. In all, 21 million Canadian residents crossed the border last year.

One powerful incentive for Canadians to visit the United States has been the strength of the Canadian dollar, which was worth more than its American counterpart for most of last year, observers say.

Another 608,000 additional visitors in 2011 came from Western European countries, for a total of nearly 12 million, and about a half-million more from South America for a record 3.76 million.

But there was only a three percent increase in visitors from Asia, to just over 7.2 million, a two percent decrease in those from Central America, and virtually no change in the number of Mexican visitors.