Congress is soon set to approve the Travel 'Promotion' Act (inverted commas very much added and intentional), which sets out to promote the U.S. as a travel destination. Apparently, the U.S. Government and private travel companies are thinking that there aren't enough visitors to the country, and that there are 'misperceptions' about the costly and complicated visa process and over the top security regulations visitors have to endure.
There will be a not for profit corporation founded that will:
- provide useful information to foreign tourists, business people, students, scholars, scientists, and others interested in traveling to the United States, including the distribution of material provided by the Federal government concerning entry requirements, required documentation, fees, processes, and information concerning declared public health emergencies, to prospective travelers, travel agents, tour operators, meeting planners, foreign governments, travel media and other international stakeholders
- identify, counter, and correct misperceptions regarding United States entry policies around the world
- maximize the economic and diplomatic benefits of travel to the United States by promoting the United States of America to world travelers through the use of, but not limited to, all forms of advertising, outreach to trade shows, and other appropriate promotional activities
- ensure that international travel benefits all States and the District of Columbia and to identify opportunities and strategies to promote tourism to rural and urban areas equally, including areas not traditionally visited by international travelers
- give priority to the Corporation’s efforts with respect to countries and populations most likely to travel to the United States
So that reads like the normal bureaucracy speak we've all come to know and loathe. In short: We think more people should come and see our great country and the only thing stopping them is that the entry and security rules just aren't well enough understood.
In real life, however, those rules and regulations are only too well understood, and tourists from non Visa Waiver Program countries are staying away in droves. Having to get an expensive ($100) visa and also for the most part travel to an in-person interview at an American Consulate or Embassy successfully keeps away all but the most determined travelers.
The issue at stake likely isn't that people don't want to visit the United States, but that they simply can't. Either because of cost, or because visas just aren't granted. It's much easier to visit most other countries in the world for citizens of states such as Brazil, Mozambique, Indonesia, Vietname, and so on. And that's exactly what they chose to do.
To add insult to injury, this not for profit organization will be funded by adding a fee for visitors coming from those countries that actually can travel to the U.S. easily: The citizens of Visa Waiver Program participant countries!
From next year, anyone who applies for ESTA clearance (a requirement for visitors using the Visa Waiver Program), will be hit up for $10 every 2 years when applying for clearance. So, to pay for promoting American travel to those who aren't likely to visit, we're making those who are visiting pay more money? How does this make any sense?
What do you think, will this new initiative help or hinder American tourism?
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It's a shame considering what an important part of the federal and local economies travel can develop into. It really is cumbersome for travelers from many countries to come to the US which hurts more than just America's economy.
Anil on 03 November, 2009