The U.S. needs to act promptly and decisively to make travel and tourism promotion a national priority without compromising security and safety, said Airlines for America (A4A) Senior Vice President for Safety Security and Operations Thomas L. Hendricks, who testified before the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
Hendricks outlined recommendations to the U.S. government for improving security and immigration as a way to boost travel and tourism to and within the United States.
Domestic and international travel contributed $1.1 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2010 and was directly responsible for nearly 7.5 million American jobs. In 2011, 60 million international travelers visited the United States and spent an estimated $134 billion.
To facilitate and grow inbound travel and tourism, A4A urged the U.S. government to:
• Speed the issuance of visas, particularly for high-growth countries such as Brazil, China and India, in addition to expanding the Visa Waiver Program to more countries where security assessments support such expansion.
• Recognize, on a reciprocal basis, other countries’ trusted-traveler entry programs that mirror the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry Program. Consideration also should be given to expanding trusted-traveler programs to specific categories of foreign passengers.
• Improve the processing of passengers entering the United States, which requires more CBP staffing to accommodate growing international travel, as well as modernize CBP information technology systems to better support passenger processing.
• Avoid diverting CBP staff from existing airports and overseas pre-clearance locations to land-border crossings or to open new pre-clearance locations. Diversion of these limited resources would delay the processing of air travelers arriving at the nation’s busiest airports.