Guess Who's Not Coming to America?
With the dollar being not so strong against the Euro and the British Pound, among others, you'd think that foreign visitors would be flocking to the United States.
You'd be wrong.
According to statistics from the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, there were two million fewer overseas visitors in 2007 than in 2000, and that's cost an estimated $137 billion loss to the U.S. economy.
Take a closer look at the stats, and you'll notice that foreign visits and spending bottomed out in 2003, an obvious post-9/11 response. Since then, the numbers have been creeping up: In 2007, nearly 24 million overseas travelers came to the United States, an increase of 5 million from the 2003 low point, but fewer than the 26 million who visited in 2000. The TIA stats maintain that, had the trend continued, 33 million should be visiting by now. Overseas visitors are spending at record levels: more than $96 million in 2007. But again, the TIA says that amount would be far greater if more overseas visitors were coming to our shores.
The cause? Sept. 11 can't be entirely blamed for the trend, the TIA says. Bad publicity about our strict entry procedures is having a chilling effect, and the United States is not doing enough to counteract the bad rap. Enter the Travel Promotion Act, which is now before Congress. It would create a $200 million annual marketing campaign to persuade overseas visitors that the United States is a great destination.
Half of the funding would come from a $10 fee that would be imposed via airline tickets on foreign visitors who can visit without obtaining a visa (the rest of the funding would come from private sources, plus a $10 million loan from the U.S. Treasury).
Not surprisingly, the bill has pitted the TIA, cruise lines, hotels, etc., against the airlines, who maintain they are already collecting enough money from passengers. (Obama, by the way, is for the bill, while McCain is not).
What do you think? Should the United States be doing more to promote travel here? Is collecting the money from foreign visitors the way to go?
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