US tourism leaders lobbying for ‘smarter visa policy’

US tourism leaders lobbying for ‘smarter visa policy’

US travel and tourism leaders are lobbying Washington for changes to visa policy they hope will end what they call “a lost decade”.

US Travel Association (USTA) president and chief executive Roger Dow unveiled proposals for a “smarter visa policy” at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) summit in Las Vegas.

Dow said: “There is so much talk about growth in travel and tourism, but in the US we talk about 2000 to 2010 as a lost decade.” In that time, he said, global international arrivals grew 40% while US inbound travel rose 1%. “Our share of the world market went from 17% to 12%.”

The industry blames heavy-handed policies on visas and security at airports for much of the shortfall, echoing concerns about the UK visa process in the UK inbound sector.

Dow said: “If you have to wait 30 to 100 days for a visa, you are going to go elsewhere.” UK passport holders do not require a visa to visit the US, but many foreign visitors do – with the waiting times and cost of visa applications in China and Brazil of particular concern to the USTA.

The association launched a four-point Smarter Visa Programme last week.

Dow told Travel Weekly: “We lost $600 billion in revenue in the last decade from not maintaining our market share. It has been devastating.”

Valeria Jarrett, a senior advisor to US President Obama, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeared at the summit to assure industry leaders the government has made tourism a priority.

Jarrett reported the US ran a $31 billion trade surplus in travel last year and said: “We can protect our country while encouraging tourism.”

She responded to complaints that the US has no secretary of tourism – a similar position to the UK – saying she would propose such a post. Jarrett told the summit: “We will consider suggestions from the travel chief executives here.”


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