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News: U.S. maps out strategy to resurrect tourism PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joachim Willms [Managing Director]   
U.S. maps out strategy to resurrect tourism
Senate bill to create agency to boost promotion and clear up misperceptions about travel policies
July 06, 2007 /  WASHINGTON The United States has lost billions of dollars and an immeasurable amount of goodwill since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks because of a decline in the number of foreign tourists.
    Several senators are now trying to get the government involved in bringing those visitors back.

The Senate commerce committee has approved a bill to establish a non-profit public-private corporation to promote the United States as a tourist destination and clear up misperceptions about U.S. travel policies. It also would create a new office in the commerce department to work with other agencies on fixing visa policies and entry processes that discourage visits.

Visits to the United States from countries outside Canada and Mexico totalled 21.7 million in 2006, down 17 per cent from a peak of 26 million in 2000, according to commerce department figures. In the same period, cross-border travel around the world rose 20 per cent.

"The global pie of international travel is steadily increasing, while the U.S. share has been slowly decreasing," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association.

Visits from the six countries that provide the most tourists Britain, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea and Australia have dropped 15 per cent since 2000 while travel from those six to other countries was up a robust 39 per cent. There were 4.2 million arrivals from Britain, last year, down 11 per cent from 2000, and 3.7 million visits from Japan, down 27 per cent.

"It's a situation that really is disastrous when you take into account the overall global trends in international travel, and the fact that the U.S. currency makes travel to the country so attractive," said Adam Sacks, managing director for tourism economics at Oxford Economics. The weak dollar makes the money of tourists go further.

Oxford Economics, in a recent analysis of travel policies written with former Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge, said the 17 per cent drop in visits since 2000 has cost the United States $100 billion (U.S.) in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in lost tax receipts.

It noted the United States is the only global destination without an ongoing promotion program. Greece spends $150 million a year.

"We have lacked a co-ordinated program to promote travel to our country," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat and a sponsor of the bill.

The new corporation envisioned by the bill would be funded by industry contributions and a $10 fee levied on travelers from the 27 countries involved in a visa waiver program with the United States.

Industry experts also stressed increased advertising must be accompanied by changes in visa systems.

News by Associated press
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