Earlier this year, the White House announced a new push for U.S. tourism, from abroad and domestically. It does seem like low-hanging fruit for the recovering economy. But would speeding up the visa process for foreign travelers be an invitation to trouble?
The travel industry argues that the U.S. has been so overly cautious in the decade following 9/11 that the country’s slow, unfriendly vetting process is pushing foreign tourists to choose other countries. …
A study by the U.S. Travel Association found that if visa wait times were reduced everywhere to 10 days, the resulting additional revenue would lead to 1.3 million new jobs and add more than $850 billion to the economy by 2020. It estimates that 78 million people have been deterred by the current U.S. visa process.
Of course, a lobbying group for the tourism industry has a vested interest in such findings. Any optimistic forecast for encouraging visitors has to be tempered with the reality that some angry people want to kill crowds of Americans, and the fact that their attempts have grown increasingly sophisticated.
But if the current system truly has deterred millions of potential tourists, this suggests that a better balance could be struck between need for security and the benefits of access.
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch (June 14)