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The U.S. Travel Association congratulated Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke on his unanimous confirmation by the Senate to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China and urged his support of expanding travel to the U.S. from China.
"Secretary Locke has been a strong advocate for the travel industry while heading the Commerce Department, and his leadership in China – a lucrative travel export market that can improve the American economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs – presents a tremendous opportunity," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
"We look forward to working with him, especially on improving consular services and decreasing visa delays for Chinese business and leisure travelers wanting to travel to the U.S, " Dow said.
Among his top priorities as Ambassador, Locke must improve the visa process for potential Chinese visitors in order to make the U.S. more competitive in the $889 billion international travel market, the association said.
According to U.S. Travel research, if the U.S. welcomed the same number of Chinese travelers as Western Europe did in 2009, the U.S. would generate $10 billion in additional traveler spending and support more than 76,000 new American jobs. A leading obstacle to maximizing Chinese visitors to the United States is that U.S. consular resources in China are not keeping pace with the growth in demand. Wait times for non-immigrant visa interview appointments in China skyrocketed from less than 30 days to nearly four months in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010.
Further complicating our visa issuance system is the fact that a Chinese national must apply for a new United States visa every year. Other foreign travelers to the United States can receive a 10-year multiple entry visa, U.S.Travel said. .
As Secretary of Commerce, Locke has been a strong advocate for improved travel facilitation, and his support of the Travel Promotion Act demonstrates his keen understanding of the value of promoting the U.S. to travelers around the world, U.S. Travel said.