The U.S. Travel Association applauded the White House for achieving several travel-related milestones mandated by an Executive Order earlier this year. The achievements were announced in a progress report released by the Obama Administration earlier today.
"Today's progress report shows that important steps have been made in our collective efforts to welcome more international visitors and facilitate travel here in the U.S., but we know there is more to be done, such as passing legislation to expand visa-free travel to our shores," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
"Travel, which is outpacing all other economic sectors in job creation by 30 percent this year, plays a critical role in creating jobs and revenue for local communities and states nationwide," the association said.
U.S. Travel noted the progress report addressed a number of activities underway by the Departments of State and Homeland Security, which were key components of the Executive Order and achieve visa and international traveler visa processing goals set by the President to increase travel to the United States.
Achievements listed in the report include:
- Exceeding the President's visa interview wait time goal - 88 percent of applicants worldwide are interviewed within three weeks of submitting their applications;
- A 40 percent increase in visa processing capacity - a top goal in the Executive Order for Brazil and China ‚Äì has been achieved in Brazil and will be met in China by December;
- Expanding facilities and increasing staffing;
- Efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program; and
- Expanding Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry Program and the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program.
Also, the report expresses support for Visa Waiver Program expansion legislation, the association said, noting the group is championing legislation before Congress - the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act of 2012. U.S. Travel urged it be passed before the end of this year.
Additionally, several U.S. Travel members are assisting the Administration in attracting visitors to the United States. These members include: American Express, Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., Gatorland, SeaWorld and Universal Parks and Resorts.
The White House also won praise for its announced travel and tourism "Listening Tour" that will include Administration and Cabinet officials traveling to cities across the country to discuss the importance of increasing travel and tourism with state and local officials, small business owners and key stakeholder organizations.
"President Obama said today that he would continue doing whatever he could 'to strengthen the travel and tourism industry and create an economy that's built to last.' That's great news for American workers and local communities across the nation," said Dow. "This has been a team effort, and I want to thank Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano, and the people working so diligently in the Departments of State and Homeland Security, for all that they have done."