Inhospitable US Scares Off Visitors

The heightened security craze and the lasting cloud of suspicion in post 9/11 America is driving away leisure travelers and damaging the country's substantial economic sector.

Inhospitable US Scares Off Visitors

The heightened security craze andthe lasting cloud of suspicion in post 9/11 America is driving away leisuretravelers and damaging the country's substantial economic sector.

"There are other places you cango where you don't get treated badly at immigration and ports of entry,"Mitchel Lenson told Reuters on Monday, March 12.

The British tourist complained thatthe aggressive treatment for foreigners has become the basic rule in the US.

"The assumption (in the US) is 'youmust be a criminal, so we'll treat you that way.'"

Offensive entry processes and poorperceptions of treatment by pistol-toting and stern-faced officials at airportshave scared away international tourists.

According to figures from the TravelIndustry Association of America, the number of travelers to the US has droppedby 17 percent since 2001.

Even worse, the frosty welcome hasturned away business travelers, foreign students and even foreigners seekingmedical care in US clinics and hospitals.

And contrary to what the governmentpropagates, travel industry coalitions insist the decline is largely blamed onunwelcoming entry policies rather than foreign policy.

A 2006 survey of travel agentsshowed that their clients were far more focused on entry policies than onforeign policy.

"The welcome from the US governmentjust hasn't been there," said Vanessa Welter, communications director forstate tourism agency Visit Florida.

A survey conducted by the travelindustry lobby group the Discover America Partnership late last year showedthat rude airport officials and delays in processing visas have turned the USinto the world's most unfriendly country.

Two-thirds of travelers worry theycould be held back at airports because of a mistake in form filling or amisstatement to immigration officials.

Losses

The anti-tourists atmosphere iscosting the service-led USeconomy dearly.

"(It) harms our economicsecurity," Geoff Freeman, executive director of the business-backed groupDiscover America,told Reuters.

The Washington-based agencypromoting travel to the USwarned that the nearly 20-percent drop in the country's share of the overseastravelers has cost it billions of dollars in revenue and nearly 200,000 jobs.

"As the number of foreignvisitors falls, we lose billions of dollars in spending, billions in taxrevenues and hundreds of thousands of jobs," Freeman affirmed.

Maryellen Fleming-Hoffman manages agift store on the plunging rim of the Grand Canyon.

Business is good, local travel isbuoyant, although one thing is different: foreign visitors to the canyon, likeother UStourist attractions, are no longer coming in the numbers they once did.

"Overall, the number of foreignvisitors are down and we'd like to see more of them," she told Reuters.

Her Hopi House store, which sells aselection of American Indian jewelry and other handicrafts, is amongtravel-related businesses across the US feeling a decline in the number ofoverseas visitors.

The pinch has been felt bybusinesses from California to the sunshinestate of Florida,which draws tourists with its theme parks and beaches.

Struggling to shed the unfriendlyimage, the private sector is launching a massive effort to reshape America's viewfor foreign visitors.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill areexpected to present a bill this year drawing on the Discover AmericaPartnership's "Blueprint to Discover America" report.

Among proposals are contracting morestaff at US consulates overseas to bring down wait times for travel visas to 30days -- from the current levels of up to three months in some countries -- andsending in trouble-shooting "rapid response" teams to tacklebacklogs.

It also proposes extending the visawaiver rights currently held by 27 countries worldwide to other nations toallow more visitors to bypass the strained visa system.

Tourist authorities would also liketo see higher government spending to woo foreign visitors.

However, the business leaders arguethat, above all, the country needs a wake-up call.

They assert that the oppressivesecurity measures implemented since the 2001 attacks have to be re-addressed inorder to reverse the harm in one of the country's most important economicsectors.

"We want to ensure our bordersare safe but we also want ensure that people know we want them to comehere," said Welter of the Visit Florida agency.

"With the exchange rate, we'reon sale right now!"

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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