At a time when the U.S. economy is struggling, the U.S. cannot afford to deter legitimate travel to the U.S. country by fueling negative perceptions that it is simply too complicated and difficult to travel to the country for business or pleasure, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association (formerly Travel Industry Association), said in a statement.
Dow was commenting on the mandatory implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The ESTA system is intended to eventually replace the I-94W paper form by collecting biographical information over the Internet from visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program before they travel to the U.S.
"America's travel community supports the ESTA for its potential to improve security and increase convenience for travelers from visa waiver countries," Dow said. "However, we are concerned that many of those who must comply with ESTA are not aware of it, do not fully understand what it is, or may be turned away at airports for non-compliance if the new requirements are fully enforced. This type of change in policy needs a sufficiently funded, robust communications campaign. Moreover, the program lacks alternatives for travelers and travel agents without access to the Internet, or for individuals who have not filled out this authorization to travel in advance of their arrival at the airport.
"Two-thirds of overseas visitors to the United States came from countries being affected by the new ESTA rules. These international travelers spend on average $4,000 per person, per trip -- generating billions of dollars in spending each year that feeds our economy and sustains millions of American jobs.”
"U.S. Travel will continue to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security to address the needs of the traveler and travel community on programs like ESTA. We encourage the incoming Secretary of Homeland Security to strive for a better balance between enhanced security and facilitation of travel. The success of travel security policies depends upon solutions such as the 'Travel Promotion Act' -- that invite foreign visitors to our country and place substantial resources behind informing them about new and changing security requirements."
The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the $740 billion travel industry. U.S. Travel's mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States.