Burke – The U.S. government is working to ease processes and procedures for international visitors to facilitate a faster and more efficient entry to the country, in a bid to reap full benefits of travel and tourism for the American economy.
Over the past few days, 1,350 potential international customers met with 1,100 American companies in Orlando at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual IPW — the world’s largest travel and tourism trade show — and bought approximately $4.7 billion in products and services, according to a June 5 statement from the Commerce Department.
Last year, nearly 75 million people from around the world visited the United States, spending $221.6 billion on hotels, cars, food, and entertainment, and supporting 1.1 million American jobs.
“The Obama administration recognizes the tremendous value that travel and tourism generates for the U.S. economy,” Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, said. ”But we are not alone in the global competition to attract international visitors.”
President Obama has launched the first-ever National Travel and Tourism Strategy, setting the ambitious goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors to the country in 2021. In recent days, the Department of Homeland Security began negotiations with nine new countries to expand the pre-clearance list to help the foreign travelers and make them choose American as their top pick.
The Commerce Department and the DHS recently released a joint report including Airport Action Plans that will simplify and streamline the entry for visitors at 17 of our top U.S. airports, Secretary Pritzker said.
“We have successfully reduced visa wait times at our embassies and consulates around the world and instituted Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry, which expedites the entry of pre-approved, low-risk American citizens and lawful permanent residents into the country.”
To date, more than 3.8 million people have enrolled in the Trusted Traveler programs. The administration has also expanded the Visa Waiver Program to 38 countries, and now 59 percent of America’s visitors originate from these countries.
With China in particular, a country whose citizens are traveling to the U.S. in much greater numbers, the government recently expanded visa validity from one to 10 years. “In the five months since visa validity extension was announced, we have seen Chinese demand for U.S. visas grow by more than 50 percent,” the Secretary said. As many as 2.19 people from China visited the U.S., a 21 percent increase over 2013.
“With the average international traveler spending $3,068 each U.S. visit, vacation centers like Orlando will surely benefit from our administration’s focus on ensuring that more visitors pick the United States as their destination of choice.”