Pave the Way for More Visitors

May 2, 2012

Our cover story this month focuses on the importance of trade to economic growth. When discussing trade, we can’t overlook one of our most valuable exports: foreign visitors to the United States. When foreign visitors spend their money here, it’s counted as an export. What’s more, travel is integral to conducting international business and facilitating trade. We should promote the United States as a premier destination and draw business and leisure travelers to our shores.

The travel and tourism industry currently employs 7.4 million Americans and generates more than $700 billion in revenue. But those numbers could be a lot higher. 

We’re currently losing travel-related jobs and squandering revenue because we’re not laying out the welcome mat for business travelers and tourists. Over the past 10 years, visitors have too often been met with travel hassles that have ultimately driven down the U.S. share of the international travel market.

Consider what’s at stake: If we could restore the U.S. share of the global overseas travel market to its 2000 level, we would create 1.3 million new jobs and generate $860 billion in economic activity—without costing taxpayers a dime.

So how do we do it? We need to broaden the Visa Waiver Program, which would pave the way for more of the world’s visitors to  come to America hassle free without jeopardizing national security. And we need to eliminate bureaucratic barriers to inbound travel, such as visa processing delays and endless wait times at customs.

Let’s make sure that when tourists are ready to travel and businesspeople are ready to make deals, they come to the greatest travel destination of them all—the United States of America. Let’s take the buying power of the vast majority of the world’s customers and put it to work in our own economy. 

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