Up, Up, and Away Goes Travel and Tourism Spending
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Good policy produces good results, and we’re seeing that with increased tourism and business travel to the United States.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that in the first and second quarters of 2012, travel and tourism spending rose 4.9% and 2.1% respectively, faster than the growth of the total economy. The Commerce Department’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries notes that total overseas travel to the U.S. is up 8.6% so far this year, and according to the Council for Foreign Relations’ Edwin Alden that desire to visit the U.S. should continue.
Neil Diamond was right: They are “Coming to America.”
Some of this success is due to making it easier for international travelers to get visas. A new report from the Departments of State and Homeland Security highlights progress in Brazil and China. The number of consular offices in Brazil and China are increasing, and wait times have fallen. In Brazil, it’s down to two days, and in China it’s less than one week at some consular offices.
These efforts are good first step but more needs to be done. First, the State Department should expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to more countries that meet the necessary security requirements. Also, Congress should pass the Jobs Originating from Launching Travel (JOLT) Act to lock the VWP’s expansion into law while also doing a number of other things to make it easier for international travelers to visit (and spend money) in the U.S.
“The travel and tourism sector is a clear example where relatively easy fixes can bring forth real results,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. These numbers show exactly that.