Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

Why are tourists staying away from the U.S.?

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Interesting info released Friday from the U.S. Travel Association, a non-profit organization representing all components of the $740 billion travel industry:

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Travel Association today expressed deep concern about newly released Department of Commerce data showing that overseas arrivals to the United States plummeted nearly eight percent in January. U.S. Travel called upon Congress and the Administration to create a nationally coordinated travel promotion program to compete for overseas visitors who spend an average of $4,400 per person, per trip and are critical to America's economic recovery.
"As any business will tell you, tough economic times demand increased investment in attracting customers," said Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Congress and the Administration must act now to compete for global travel dollars and reverse the accelerating decline in U.S. visitation. Increasing travel to the United States is the most efficient form of economic stimulus." 
This latest news from the U.S. Department of Commerce comes only two weeks after the announcement that 633,000 fewer overseas travelers visited the United States in 2008 than in 2000, despite the fact that 48 million more international travelers took long-haul trips in 2008 than in 2000.  If U.S. overseas arrivals had kept pace with international long-haul travel trends from 2001-2008, America would have welcomed a cumulative total of 58 million more visitors, $182 billion in new spending and $27 billion in new tax revenue.  These visitors would have supported 245,000 American jobs each year.
The House of Representatives passed the Travel Promotion Act in 2008. The legislation would have created a nationally coordinated promotion campaign at no cost to U.S. taxpayers.  Studies show that such a campaign would attract millions of additional overseas visitors per year, resulting in billions of dollars of new visitor spending. A Senate companion bill, co-sponsored by a majority of U.S. Senators, did not receive a vote. The Travel Promotion Act is expected to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress in the coming weeks.

Why are foreigners staying away from the U.S.? And should we care?

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To compete with the architectural treasures of the "old world" and with the exotics destinations, which are now very cheap to reach, in my opinion the U.S. should rely on big happenings, cultural events, in other words "selling" knowledge, experience and emotions.

I would just like to say that my wife and I travel to the US for our holidays every year, twice if we can. We are from Scotland and must say that this year we applied for our visa online and were approved within 48 hours. Passport and immigration staff have always been professional and polite at point of entry. Better than some European airports. A lot of our friends have either been to the US this year or have booked to visit at some point in 2009.
We are visiting Washington and New York in August and will be in Chicago in 4 days time. Looking forward to it. See you soon.

"Young lady, this is the last visa you will ever get".

That is what the US citizen/consulate employee told my wife's 16-year old cousin during her visa interview earlier this month in Argentina. She also has relatives in Spain and Italy - which she will probably go visit instead.

No one outside the US likes the country or its people; this is a feeling our State Department is actively trying to strengthen.

People are not coming to the U.S. because or U.S. State Department is a bureaucratic mess with long delays in the issuing of U.S. tourist Visa and other documents and their processing needed to enter the US. We were once a nation that embraced and encouraged foreign visitors and tourist, but Post 9/11 the pendulum has swung way to far to the right and we are now a nation of bureaucratic forms, long wait times and a general feeling that foreigners are not welcome here.

I understand the need for security and protecting our nation and its' people, but this must also be balanced with courteous, fair and expedient treatment and processing of those who are law abiding foreigners that just want to visit our country on vacation or on business. After all we country that was founded by immigrants and many times foreign visitors just want to come and see their extended family for a vacation.

It is with a bit of hope and optimism that the pendulum will soon move more toward the middle in light of the new Washington Administration.

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This page contains a single entry by Lori Rackl published on April 10, 2009 1:01 PM.

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