Emerging tourism source countries eyed to boost U.S. economy
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado and Vail could be well-placed to take advantage of any boost in tourism that results from President Obama’s push to speed visa processing for foreign travelers, with Vail Resorts chairman and CEO Rob Katz being named to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, along with Holly Arnold Kinney, proprietor of the Fort Restaurant in Morrison.
The expanded board is part of an initiative announced Thursday by President Obama with the overall goal of making the U.S. the world’s top tourism and travel destination.
The president signed an an executive order that will expand the global entry program for pre-approved, low-risk travelers to new airports, including DIA, and increase non-immigrant visa processing by 40 percent in China and Brazil, two emerging economy countries seen as huge source markets for tourism.
“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” Obama said Thursday in a tourism speech at Disney World. “We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” he added.
I think it is a very positive move, albeit several years over due,” said Colorado Tourism Office director Al White. “The work on speeding up visa applications will be huge … Also, the advisory board he (President Obama) is talking about has two Coloradans on it … That is a positive omen for Colorado. All things considered, I think it is a great move on the part of the President. Now they have to execute.”
As travel from some of the targeted countries grows, in could lead to new direct flights to Denver from markets like Tokyo, or Sao Paolo, White said.
“Each international nonstop is deemed to be valued at $50-$80 million in annual economic benefit to the state,” he added. “Business travel activity is also a major consideration for these type flights, but leisure travel is a key component.”
Currently, Colorado has travel brokers in six countries: Japan, France/Belgium/Luxembourg, Germany/Austria, UK/Ireland, Canada, Mexico. (grouping by language).
“If travel increases, I anticipate we would see significantly increased business through those brokers, and if it seems appropriate, we might look at contracting with brokers in other countries as well, for example Brazil and China,” White concluded.
President Obama explained in his speech that the U.S. Tourism industry represented 2.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and supported 7.5 million jobs in 2010.
The travel and tourism industry — which has been pushing for the visa changes — projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market.
“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” said President Obama.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $134 billion in U.S. exports in 2010 and is the nation’s largest service export industry, with 7 percent of total exports and 24 percent of service exports.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job. According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or “long-haul” travelers spend on average $4,000 on each visit.
The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135 percent, 274 percent, and 50 percent respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth.
Today’s Executive Order charges several agencies to take part in efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States:
- The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior will be charged with:
- Co-leading an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel & Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. This Task Force will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion (currently doing business as BrandUSA), a non-profit corporation established by Congress through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 to promote travel to the United States, and the Tourism Policy Council to ensure private sector participation and cross-agency coordination.
- A particular focus of the Task Force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. The Department of the Interior manages iconic destinations in our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe. In 2010, more than 400 million visits were made by American and international travelers to these lands, contributing nearly $50 billion in economic activity and 400,000 jobs. Eco-tourism and outdoor recreation also have an outsize impact on rural economies, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
- The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security will be charged with:
- Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent in 2012.
- Ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
- Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and expanding reciprocal trusted travel programs for expedited travel (such as the Global Entry program).
- The Department of Commerce will be charged with:
- Establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States.
Additional initiatives announced today include:
- New Pilot Program and Rule Change for Visa Processing in China and Brazil:
- Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as individuals from any country renewing non-immigrant visas, or, in Brazil, younger or older first-time applicants. Link to fact sheet HERE for more information.
- Final Rule to Expand and Make the Global Entry Program Permanent:
- Global Entry is a program within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection that was created as a pilot in 2008 to facilitate expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. Due in part to innovative public-private partnerships, the Global Entry program now has more than 246,000 members, more than one million trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits, and efforts are underway to expand enrollment even further. There are currently 131 Global Entry kiosks at 20 airports and since launching, members have used Global Entry kiosks over 1.7 million times, saving CBP officers over 36,450 inspection hours—staff hours that CBP has then re-allocated to expedite regular passenger queues. This final rule will allow the program to be expanded to an additional 4 airports in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix, making the Global Entry program and expedited clearance available in airports that service approximately 97% of international travelers.
- Appoint new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board:
- A new membership of 32 private sector CEOs have been appointed by Commerce Secretary Bryson to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will build upon the work undertaken by the past Board addressing travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues. This Board consists of corporate executives across the nation, representing all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed to a two-year term to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. See the full list of new members HERE.
- Nomination of Taiwan to Visa Waiver Program:
- Currently, more than 60 percent of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program. The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to promote travel and tourism with our foreign partners, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. Since November 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has added nine countries to the Visa Waiver Program, bringing the program total to 36 countries.