Obama Unveils Strategy to Boost Travel to and Within the U.S.

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Orlando, FL—President Barack Obama today unveiled a plan to ease the way for international visitors to obtain visas and travel to the U.S. as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation. The latest data reveals that in 2010, travel and tourism supported 14 million jobs, according to the Washington, DC-based U.S. Travel Association.

Speaking at Walt Disney World in Orlando—the heart of Florida’s tourism industry—the President announced a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation.

The plan is expected to result in as many as 100 additional counsels in Brazil, China and India to expand the program that allows smooth passage through airports for so-called “low-risk” international visitors.

The President also released an Executive Order mandating a 40% increase in personnel in those countries that would help reduce the wait time to obtain visas to approximately three weeks for the majority of visa applicants. The initiatives also include a final rule to expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. He also nominated Taiwan to the Visa Waiver Program.

The national strategy has long been sought by trade show organizers whose shows draw heavy contingents of international exhibitors and attendees. Last year, research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research concluded that 116,000 international attendees and exhibitor staff were blocked from making a trip to exhibitions in the U.S. in 2010 for various reasons.

According to U.S. Travel Association data, the U.S. received 17% of the global long-haul travel market in 2000. By 2010, that number had dropped to 12.4%. The country lost more than $600 billion in visitor spending and $37 billion in new direct tax revenue as a result of the decline, the industry group said in a release.

“This is the first time our country has had a national strategy and set goals for the amount of visitors we want to welcome to our country. Not only will this increase traffic to America’s wonderful destinations and attractions, but nearly half of the travelers will come to attend conferences and trade shows,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

“The president has put forward his vision and the travel industry is ready to heed the call. U.S.  Travel looks forward to working with the Administration to improve America’s economy and create more American jobs,” Dow said.

Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or presidentsoffice@ustravel.org