Travel industry wants U.S. to ease visa rules for Chinese tourists

The Statue of Liberty might “lift my lamp beside the golden door,” but American tourism officials say too many foreign visitors are finding that door locked when they try to come to the United States.
The U.S. Travel Association, the lobbying arm of the tourism trade, has launched a drive to persuade the American public and its elected leaders that it’s time to ease back on restrictions on foreign tourists. But it may be a quixotic campaign in the run-up to an election year when illegal immigration and terrorism are front-burner issues
The wealthy family from China who wants to come to Los Angeles on a shopping spree because of the weak dollar has little in common with the illegal immigrant crossing the border from Mexico. But safeguards to stop illegal entry sometimes end up snaring just the tourist.
Those bent on illegal activity will try to find ways around the roadblocks. The legal visitor likely will go somewhere more welcoming. That’s a policy the country can ill afford during a major recession, according to the U.S Travel Association.
“As a nation, we’re putting up a ‘keep out’ sign,” said Roger Dow, president of the association, in a press statement this month.
The group said barriers to easy travel to the U.S. have kept out an estimated 78 million foreign tourists (and their wallets) from 2000 to 2010. Lifting many of the restrictions could pump $859 billion into the U.S. economy and add 1.3 million jobs, by the association’s estimates.
Dow’s group points out that most of the barriers are self-imposed and archaic. While Europe has mostly unified its immigration and customs, and countries around the world have dropped or streamlined visa requirements, the U.S. still requires millions of travelers to go through a sometimes long and laborious process to visit here.
As of May, there are 36 countries that are on the Visa Waiver Program – countries whose citizens are not required to get a visa to travel to the U.S. for vacations of 90 days or less. Most of the countries are in western and central Europe, with a smattering of highly developed Asian nations such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Australia and New Zealand are also on the list. Citizens of most of the other 150 or so countries around the globe have to get in line and fill out the paperwork.
But what the travel association sees as “unnecessary barriers on international visitors” are seen by advocates of tighter borders as a way to control who gets to visit the country and, equally important, to make sure they go home when their trip is over.
But with a sputtering economy and affluent Chinese travelers attracted by a historically weak dollar, the travel association thinks the time is right for reform. It will push its “Ready for Takeoff” plan, touting travel as the nation’s top export sector and one that is easy to expand. The group also knows how to hit the hot button. Job growth and tax cuts are mantras Americans can get behind. Foreign visitors are a way to fill tax coffers without raising taxes on Americans. It will create jobs for Americans to check them into hotels, rent them cars and serve them meals. “Chinese tourists coming to the US have a strong desire to buy made in USA products, this is a historical opportunity for the whole nation’s economy to attract more of these affluent tourists”, commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus.
As part of the push, the association is re-energizing the Discover America Partnership, an umbrella coalition with associations representing hotels, restaurants, retailers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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1 Comment

Filed under USA

One response to “Travel industry wants U.S. to ease visa rules for Chinese tourists

  1. Agnes Chung

    It same to Malaysian. We feel it is hard to apply visa to visit states. Like Singaporean they are visa free why not Malaysia as we go for holiday and come back. Hope one day malaysian’s dream come true for USA visa free for tourism. Agnes-Malaysia

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