Tag Archives: Roger Dow

In the first half of 2012, +46% of visa applications processed at U.S. Embassy for Chinese leisure travelers

President Barack Obama’s initiative to boost international tourism has pushed the US government to process a record 1 million visa applications from China so far during fiscal 2012.
“This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 43 percent over the same period last fiscal year, when we had processed just over 675,000 visa applications in China,” the State Department announced Thursday.
The US federal government’s fiscal year begins Oct 1 and ends Sept 30, so the department was referring to visa-processing totals through the end of the third quarter on June 30. As China Daily reported in April, through the first half of fiscal 2012, the State Department had processed 453,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens, up 46 percent from the first six months of fiscal 2011.
To reach the 1 million figure through the current fiscal year’s first nine months, department staff at the US Embassy in Beijing and the four consulates across China processed at least 547,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens in the three months from April 1 through June 30 – reflecting especially high demand for the busy summer travel season.
The State Department credited the opening of more windows for interviews, expansion of consular office space and better-maintained waiting areas for visa processing at the Beijing embassy and its consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang. Furthermore, it said the average waiting time for a visa interview has been reduced to about a week from the several months it used to take to get an appointment.
According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and the author of the Book How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists “This initiative is the direct result of a very successful lobbying campaign organized by the retail, travel, and hospitality industries that were the first-hand witnesses of the incredible purchasing power of Chinese tourists in the last few years. Roger Dow (president of the United States Travel Association) and Joe McInerney (president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association) have done a fantastic job of explaining to Washington the vital necessity to the American economy of finding ways to increase the number of Chinese leisure visitors.”
Dong Xue, a senior at Purdue University in Indiana, has just returned from China and it took her only a week to get a visa, even at the peak of summer. As a repeat traveler to the US, Dong was able to use a bank drop-off service to renew her visa. Without having to go for a personal interview, she submitted her paperwork through the bank and got her visa in five business days.
“As the Chengdu consulate (nearest to her hometown of Chongqing) was very busy then, their colleagues in Guangzhou processed my application,” Dong told China Daily. “It’s so fast. Usually it will take two weeks.”
The Obama administration, pointing out the value of travel and tourism to the US economy, introduced in January a strategy to make the United States the top destination for foreign visitors. More than 1 million jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market, Obama has said.
In 2011, about 1.18 million Chinese visited the United States and the number is expected to reach 2 million in 2015, according to the National Tourism Administration of China.

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U.S. Travel Association applauds Congress for U.S. Visa System and traveler facilitation reforms for Chinese tourists

The U.S. Travel industry worked with Congressional appropriators to secure significant victories related to U.S. visa system and traveler facilitation reforms in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012. The legislation reflects 2011 advocacy efforts by the U.S. Travel Association to improve the U.S. economy, remove barriers to travel and improve the travel process.

The U.S. Travel industry worked with Congressional appropriators to secure significant victories related to U.S. visa system and traveler facilitation reforms in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012. The legislation reflects 2011 advocacy efforts by the U.S. Travel Association to improve the U.S. economy, remove barriers to travel and improve the travel process.

“This legislation is an acknowledgment by Congress that reforms to the U.S. visa and entry systems and passenger screening process are key to improving our nation’s economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Clearly, the travel community is being heard, and we applaud Congress for addressing these issues.”

“The extended visa expiration period for affluent Chinese tourists doing frequent luxury shopping tours to the U.S. is an excellent news for the U.S. luxury retail industry” said Pierre Gervois, an expert in marketing to wealthy Chinese outbound tourists and member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “That will mean more wealthy Chinese customers spending more money in U.S. luxury shopping malls and flagship stores, and creating more american jobs in the luxury retail industry”

U.S. VISA SYSTEM REFORM – The Act mirrors a number of recommendations put forth by the U.S. Travel Association in a May 2011 report on the U.S. visa system. That report identified visa wait times, visa validity periods and videoconferencing technology as keys to improving a system that cannot meet demand in emerging economies with growing markets of international travelers.

Initiatives championed by U.S. Travel and included in the consular affairs section of the bill include:
Visa Wait Time Reductions – To reduce the number of days applicants must wait before their visa application interview, the bill directs the Secretary of State to hire a sufficient number of consular officers, including limited non-career appointment (LNA) officers, in China, Brazil and India. These LNA officers will give the State Department hiring flexibility to meet increasing visa demand in the coming years.
Better Metrics and Long-Term Planning – Congress directs the Secretary of State to report on the steps it will take to reduce current visa processing wait times but also to submit a 5-year forecast of visa demand in Brazil, China and India. The plan should outline the number of consular officers necessary to meet the Department’s 30 day visa processing standard. Congress also directs the State Department to compare its forecast with the Commerce Department’s visitor projections in order to allow it to produce better long-term plans.
Extended Visa Expiration Period – A plan must be developed by the State Department to extend expiration periods for leisure or business visas that require a consular officer interview. The visa validity period for Chinese citizens is only one year, and U.S. Travel has recommended extending the visa validity period to five or 10 years, common with other countries, so business and leisure travelers do not have to undergo the visa renewal process annually and State can better meet demand of new applicants in China.
Secure Videoconferencing Technology – Congress has cleared the Secretary of State to develop and conduct a pilot program to conduct visa interviews for leisure and business visas using secure remote videoconferencing technology. With limited consular offices in emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India, the addition of remote secure videoconferencing would allow more citizens to apply for U.S. visas.
U.S. ENTRY & EXIT SYSTEM REFORM – The Act includes a number of significant improvements to the entry and exit process at U.S. air and land ports of entry.
Increased Staffing – The bill provides funding to hire an additional 300 new Customs and Border Protection Officers to improve processing of inbound travelers at land border crossings and international U.S. airports.
More Oversight of Operations – The bill requires CBP to report to the Congress on its long-term staffing plans and implementation of key entry reforms such as trusted traveler programs and elimination of unnecessary rescreening of international travelers and baggage.
Air Exit System – The bill provides $9.4 million to the development of a comprehensive plan for enhancements of a biographic air exit program to bolster security and allow for further expansion of the Visa Waiver Program.
DOMESTIC AVIATION FACILITATION REFORM – The Act makes a series of recommendations designed to improve the efficiency of traveler facilitation including:
Congressional Reports on Efficiency – TSA must submit to Congress reports on passenger and baggage screening efficiency and on how its workforce is being deployed at the nation’s airports to maintain average wait times below 10 minutes. As a recent U.S. Travel survey showed, an overwhelming majority of passengers are frustrated with screening checkpoints. The bill also encourages TSA to utilize privatized screening where more cost-effective.
Trusted Traveler – To help implement recommendations akin the U.S. Travel Blue Ribbon Panel on Aviation Security, the bill provides TSA $10M to implement risk-based screening and to expand known-traveler populations beyond the current PreCheck program.

In 2012, the U.S. Travel Association will pursue policies on behalf of the travel industry, many of which will create much-needed U.S. jobs and improve the economy. These include legislative vehicles for additional visa system reform, expanding the Visa Waiver Program, enhancing the entry process at ports of entry, and improving the efficiency of the U.S. air travel system.

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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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Nomination of Gary Locke as the new US Ambassador to China may ease the visa issue for Chinese leisure tourists

In response to President Obama’s announcement regarding Commerce Secretary Gary Locke‘s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to China, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, issued the following statement:
“The nomination of Gary Locke as the U.S. ambassador to China presents a tremendous opportunity to advance travel-related issues involving a lucrative export market to improve the American economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As Secretary of Commerce, he has been a strong advocate for improved travel facilitation and his support of the Travel Promotion Act demonstrates his keen understanding of the value of promoting the U.S. to travelers around the world. Among his top priorities must be to improve the visa process for potential Chinese visitors in order to make the U.S. more competitive in the $889 billion international travel market.

In 2009, the average Chinese traveler spent nearly $7,000 on American products and services while visiting our country – 72 percent more than the average spending in the United States by all other overseas travelers. Unfortunately, only less than three percent of the 30 million Chinese nationals who traveled outside of mainland China that year visited the United States.

According to our research, if the United States welcomed the same number of Chinese travelers as Western Europe did in 2009, the U.S. would generate $10 billion in additional traveler spending and support more than 76,000 new American jobs. According to Pierre Gervois, marketing expert on the Chinese outbound tourism issues, “The United States could easily get three to five million Chinese visitors every year with a smoother visa policy”.

A leading obstacle to maximizing Chinese visitors to the United States is that our consular resources in China are not keeping pace with the growth in demand. Wait times for nonimmigrant visa interview appointments in China skyrocketed from less than 30 days to nearly four months in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010.

Further complicating our visa issuance system is the fact that a Chinese national must apply for a new United States visa every year. Other foreign travelers to the United States can receive a 10-year multiple entry visa. “We look forward to working with the new ambassador and the Administration on these issues to maximize travel exports, create more American jobs and increase America’s competitiveness with China.”, Mr Dow added.

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Inaugural tour of Chinese group leisure travelers to the United States

The National Tour Association (NTA) and the Travel Industry Association hosted a welcome event June 19, 2008, marking the inaugural tour of Chinese group leisure travelers to the United States.

More than 260 Chinese travelers were in attendance, along with U.S. and Chinese government and industry leaders. Guests included China National Tourism Administration Chairman Shao Qiwei, U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Clark Randt, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, Travel Industry Association President and CEO Roger Dow, National Tour Association Chairman and CEO Bob Hoelscher, CTP, and NTA President Lisa Simon, CTP.

“NTA is proud to join with TIA in hosting this monumental event as the U.S. opens its doors to these new international leisure visitors,” said NTA Chairman and CEO Bob Hoelscher, CTP. “NTA tour operators participating in the China Inbound Program are ready to assist Chinese travel agents, and the initial NTA list included more than 90 U.S.-based tour operators.”

Following this inaugural event, six different groups of Chinese travelers will now tour Washington, D.C., and New York before traveling to Los Angeles, Hawaii, and San Francisco.

“This welcome event marks the beginning of a great time for the U.S.,” said NTA President Lisa Simon, CTP. “We have the opportunity to boost the U.S. economy and project a welcoming image to these visitors. NTA hopes each of these travelers will go back to China with an incredible travel experience and plan to return to the United States often.”

Simon added that “NTA is the industry partner that has enabled the Memorandum of Understanding to be facilitated by implementing the list of tour operators approved to work with Chinese travel agents.”

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