Tag Archives: US Travel Association

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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