U.S. Travel Association Gives International Travelers a Voice
The new website’s goal is to deliver appeals from international travelers to the U.S. to Congress to help improve the entry process into the U.S., according to the association’s news release July 31.
ABC World News’s special series “Made in America” exposed the U.S.’s troubling slow travel visa process that was costing America an estimated $606 billion in lost dollars from international tourists, particularly from China and Brazil in October 2011.
President Barack Obama took note. He quickly issued an Executive Order establishing visa and foreign visitor processing goals and a travel and tourism task force, the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, made up of representatives from various government departments, including Homeland Security and the State Department, along with tourism associations in January 2012.
Since then, the process for travelers from Brazil and China has become easier with the increase in foreign visa and the launch of Brand U.S.A. announcing that the U.S. is open to visitors. The number of international traveler’s to the U.S. has grown 37 percent by the beginning of this year, according to visa applications, reported U.S. Travel. More countries, such as Taiwan, are being added to the new visa waiver program.
That doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
To help decision makers in the U.S., i.e. Congress and the Obama Administration, U.S. Travel set up a website featuring video messages from international travelers reporting their experiences following their exit from customs and immigration checkpoints.
It’s the new customer service platform for international travelers to air their complaints and concerns, such as long wait times and delays, with the system and urge and provide their suggestions to the U.S. government and travel influencers to improve the process.
What they say
A test run of the new Traveler’s Voice posted on the new website spotlights interviews with international travelers coming out of customs and immigration after they officially entered the U.S. at various airports during the past four weeks.
Their biggest concerns were the lack of staffing of Customs and Border Protection officers to handle the influx of international travelers coming to the U.S. or stopping over to make connecting flights to other parts of the world.
“The message could not be more clear,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association about international traveler’s desire to see more CBP officials to help speed up the process to enter the U.S.
“International travelers visit our country to conduct business, experience our destinations and sites and, most importantly, contribute billions of dollars to our economy,” continues Dow. “It is deeply concerning that due to a lack of adequate resources our entry procedure is viewed as frustrating and slow by valued international travelers.”
Dow vowed to get international visitors’ message to Congress to invest in improving the travel experience to America.
“U.S. Travel is committed to ensuring that Congress hears their voices, alongside those of domestic travelers and American businesses [to give] CBP the resources they need to support a world-class entry system,” he says.
Ian, a business traveler from Europe agrees.
“I would say just invest, because obviously people are coming here. They are investing in the economy, so invest in the staffing to make sure that people want to come back and keep investing in the economy,” says Ian in his message to policymakers.
The lack of investment in U.S. travel by people from other countries is dissuading them from coming to America, according to a recent survey conducted by Consensus Research Group for U.S. Travel.
The survey reveals that travelers from overseas are avoiding coming to the U.S. due to “often lengthy lines and delays at customs.” News travels fast, potential guests to the U.S. are getting an earful from their friends’ experiences spreading to an estimated nearly 100 million global travelers to stay away from the U.S.
That’s costing the U.S. an estimated $95 billion and 518,900 jobs across the nation, according to the release.
Congress is getting with the program.
Seeing what is at stake, the U.S. Senate passed the comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S. 744), which provides for an additional 3,500 CBP officers and calls for reducing average primary processing wait times at high-volume international airports by 50 percent, according to the release. The bill also sets a goal of screening 80 percent of air passengers at high-volume international airports and places screening time caps of 30 minutes by the end of the 2016 fiscal year.
Roger applauds the Senate for its actions to improve the entry process for international travelers to the U.S.
“I applaud the Senate for their actions to improve the entry process and urge the House to address the wait time delays we are hearing about first-hand from international travelers,” says Roger.
U.S. Travel and its members call upon Congress and the Administration to invest in several thousand CBP officers to assist in processing the U.S.’s guests. They also call upon the U.S. House of Representatives working on immigration reform to also address customs entry processes by providing necessary staffing and setting appropriate metrics for a more efficient entry system.
“This critical step will help stem the inconsistent and lengthy entry process that many travelers report and will help the U.S. realize billions in new traveler spending,” adds Roger.
Listen to what international travelers have to say about their process entering the U.S. at TravelersVoice.org.
To urge Congress and the White House to invest in travel to America, contact your representative, here http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml.
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