The U.S. Travel Association has a new plan that it says will create 1.3 million jobs in the United States and add US$ 859 billion to the American economy by 2020 by reforming an antiquated visa process that often drives international travelers to other countries.
The heart of U.S. Travel’s plan is to increase staffing, reduce visa interview wait times and expand the Visa Waiver Program.
The association wishes to make America more welcoming to foreign visitors, particularly from emerging economies like Brazil, India, China.
USTA figures reveal that while travel is the largest US industry export sector, the country is losing the tourism battle against other nations – such as those from Western Europe – as a travel destination.
Looking specifically at economies like Brazil, China and India, global long-haul travel grew 140% from 2000 to 2010 and is projected to double again over the next decade. But only a fraction of that travel, and the billions of dollars in revenue it creates, went to the United States, it said.
“As a nation, we’re putting up a ‘keep out’ sign,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “The United States imposes unnecessary barriers on international visitors, and that inhibits our economic growth. If we institute a smarter visa policy, we can create 1.3 million U.S. jobs.”
By failing to keep pace with the growth in global long-haul international travel between 2000 and 2010, the United States lost the opportunity to welcome 78 million more visitors and generate 606 billion USD in direct and downstream spending – enough to support more than 467,000 additional U.S. jobs annually over these years.
US Travel’s report, “Ready for takeoff: a plan to create 1.3 million US jobs by welcoming millions of international travelers” is the first comprehensive review of the negative impact that inefficient and unpredictable U.S. visitor visa and entry processes have on U.S. jobs, economic growth and exports.
The report documents that travel is the US largest industry export sector, and the easiest export sector to expand, since the barriers to increased international visitation to the United States are largely self-imposed. Additionally, the report shows how common-sense reforms that are relatively easy to implement could create 1.3 million more US jobs and add 859 billion to the US economy by 2020 – all with little or no cost to taxpayers.
The report’s comprehensive, four-step plan should help the United States achieve its goal of becoming more competitive in the global travel market, which in turn will expand US exports, create new jobs and drive economic growth.
The report recommends: the US must align US State Department resources with market demands; US must reduce visa interview wait times to 10 days or fewer; US State Department must improve planning, measurement and transparency; and the US must expand the Visa Waiver Program.
“Increasing travel to the United States is the most effective form of economic stimulus,” said Dow. “Travel supports communities, injecting billions into the U.S. economy and creating millions of new jobs.”