Travel from the Asia-Pacific region to the U.S. is critical to the economy and U.S. policy should ensure its future growth, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow asserted in testimony before Congress.
Dow appeared in a hearing titled "Building Secure Partnerships in Travel, Commerce and Trade with the Asia-Pacific Region" before the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
"Nearly a quarter of the increase in travel exports over the past two years has come from four countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, China, Japan and South Korea," said Dow. "Collectively, the spending by these four countries in 2011 supported 233,000 U.S. jobs, 14,200 more than were supported in 2010."
Some international airports report that passengers arriving from long flights – some from the Asia-Pacific region – experience delays of up to three hours at U.S. customs processing facilities, the association says.
Dow's testimony suggested a multi-prong approach, which should include:
• Establishing a passenger wait time goal of 20 minutes per individual at international airports;
• Finding a sensible funding solution to hire enough CBP officers to meet the 20-minute processing goal;
• Setting metrics to measure the customer service performance of CBP officers at airports;
• Fully implement the Global Entry trusted traveler agreement with South Korea within the next few months; and
• Expeditiously negotiating Global Entry agreements with Australia, Japan and Singapore.
"The United States must be able to process visitors securely and efficiently through its airports," said Dow. "Doing so will bring significant economic benefit to destinations throughout our country."
The U.S. share of global international long-haul travel fell from 17 percent in 2000 to just 12.4 percent in 2010 despite a 40 percent growth in overall global travel, U.S. Travel says.
"While global international travel boomed over the last decade, America failed to keep pace. Because total international tourist arrivals are projected to grow another 36 percent between 2010 and 2020 on a worldwide basis, the U.S. has a chance to regain its lost market share and attract billions in new travel exports," U.S. Travel argues.
Outbound long-haul travel from Australia, China, Japan and South Korea is expected to increase by 24 million over the next five years.