Over the summer, President Obama’s jobs council deemed international travel among the “low-hanging fruit” for stimulating the economy. The Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership created by Congress last year, will announce next month the first U.S. advertising campaign to promote the nation as a tourist destination. Rebecca Blank, the acting commerce secretary, called tourism a key component of “America’s exports success story.”
CNN’s GPS had a similar story last Sunday. As of now I know of neither a single representative nor a single interest group (much less an intelligent argument) that does not support increasing tourism. It is win-win for all parties. The problem is not that foreigners are aware of the attractions within the US. The US is second only to France in world tourism. The problem is more likely the difficulty of getting a visa.
Last week, Rep. Joseph J. Heck (R-Nev.) introduced a bill aimed at cutting the time it takes to get a tourist visa to 12 days, citing waits at consulates in key markets that can stretch to more than 100 days.
The State Department has pledged to reduce wait times for appointments to 30 days, and a spokesman said it is adding a “significant” number of staffers in Brazil and China to keep up with demand. The bill is awaiting a committee hearing.
Guo, of Beijing, said he waited nearly two months for an interview for his visa. He said he is also frustrated that the pass is only good for one year, which means he could have to reapply before his next trip. New York, Miami and Orlando are on his list.
“I guess too many people want to go to the U.S.,” Hui said.
The Corporation for Travel Promotion may be unnecessary. The government increasing its productivity to meet demand may be sufficient. Here’s to hoping they are able to do it. That they may truly be unable to grab the low-hanging fruit is troubling.