Once their first stop for visits, education and entertainment, people of the Middle East countries are now turning away from the United States to more Arab-friendly environments in Europe and Asia. Investors, tourists, students and patients are now abstaining from the US over the ongoing visa hassle and security concerns, hurting Arab businesses and spending in the US and affecting its service sectors.
A 6.8-billion-dollar deal reached on February 13 between the US administration and Dubai Ports World to operate six major American ports was brought to a halt over national security concerns despite trials from President George W. Bush himself to save the mega contract. Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said the US share of international travel has dropped by "about $20 billion a year" since 2000, to its all-time low.
US Commerce Department figures show that visits by Saudi tourists, for example, sharply fell to 18,573 in 2004, from 72,891 in 1999. Tourist dollars, consequently, dropped as Saudi visitors spend three times more per person than any other group of US tourists with $9,368 per trip.
The post said that the education sector suffered most from the US visa restrictions with Gulf heavyweights brining US universities to their capitals. The steep drop of students from the Middle East countries have caused losses worth as much as $43 million a year.
Rasulo said the US share of international travel has dropped by about $20 billion a year since 2000.
The sharpest decline was from Saudi Arabia, which sent 14 percent fewer students to the United States last year, according to the Institute of International Education. Qatar, for example, has provided funds to bring US universities -- including Texas A&M, Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Cornell University's medical school -- to its capital, Doha.
Saudi Arabia's minister of higher education also recently unveiled a "look East" strategy for education. He said that an increasing number of students will be sent to Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. The Newsweek magazine has warned that the US visa restrictions posed threats to its competitiveness due to the dramatic decline of foreign students in the country.
It noted that 38 percent of doctorate holders in America's science and engineering work force are foreign-born and that foreigners make up more than half the students enrolled in science and engineering programs. The National Science Board (NSB) sounded the alarm in a recent report showing that the US ranked now 17th in the proportion of college students majoring in science and engineering while it ranked third in 1975.
The visa hassle has also harmed the health-care sector in the country. The number of Arab patients at leading US medical centers fell by 20 percent to 50 percent in the wake of the September attack. High-profile Arab patients, including kings and presidents, often came to the United States for lengthy treatments accompanied by large families and staffs.
To overcome the shortage, US clinics have embarked on intensive efforts to draw back Arab patients. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester has recently opened a cardiovascular clinic in Dubai, which coordinates travel to the United States for further treatment, if necessary.
The US has further denied visas to famed Muslim and Arab professors and intellectuals over suspicions of "endorsing terrorism." The latest of whom is Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe's best known Muslim intellectuals, who was offered a teaching post at Indiana's Notre Dame University's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
A US federal judge, reviewing a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), criticized on April 13 the Bush administration for being inconsistent in its handling the visa application of Ramadan. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, has also decided to shun American officials and freeze cooperation with all US institutions after Washington denied one of its senior officials an entry visa.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16