The U.S. Travel Association applauded the competitiveness initiative discussed by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union Address and his specific focus on increasing exports.
"To achieve the President's goals, the travel industry strongly urges the Administration and Congress to rapidly develop visa and entry policies that will attract more international visitors to America, increase our positive trade balance and create hundreds of thousands of American jobs," U.S. Travel said.
"We are eager to work with our elected leaders to capitalize on the more than $4,000 spent by the average overseas visitor each time they come to the United States," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Allowing extraordinary visa wait times and dissatisfaction with our entry process to detour foreign visitors is akin to shredding a winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket. Let's get to work on creating a travel process that is the envy of the world and provides our fellow Americans with the jobs they desperately need."
An increase in overseas travel to the United States by an average of 15 percent each year between now and 2015 to meet the President's goal of doubling exports would add $105 billion and 765,000 jobs to the U.S. economy, according to U.S. Travel analysis. The United States has welcomed fewer overseas visitors each year following the September 11, 2001 attacks than it did in 2000. Over that same period, long-haul travel around the world has grown by 60 million travelers. The President's National Export Initiative, which seeks to double exports over the next five years, should include increased travel as a core component of achieving the President's goals.
Lawrence Summers, former director of President Obama's National Economic Council, said at a President's Export Council meeting: "My guess is the single largest lacuna on a 25-year basis in the U.S. effort around competitiveness is actually in the tourism area. I think we just lag way behind."
U.S. Travel said that among the opportunities to help facilitate increased travel to the United States are: using secure videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews of prospective travelers in countries such as Brazil, China and India; expansion of the Visa Waiver Program; and expansion of the trusted traveler program known as Global Entry.
Earlier this year U.S. Travel released a study conducted by Oxford Economics that showed the U.S. "lost" more than $500 billion in travel spending from overseas visitors to America during the last decade alone by simply not keeping pace with the boom in international travel around the globe.