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Snap-O Fact #85

President Obama Issues Executive Order to Make U.S. the Top Tourist Destination in the World!
In the past decade since 9/11 foreign tourists who wanted to visit the U.S. and spend a lot of money here have been stymied by long delays in the Visa process, and opted instead to visit Europe or the Caribbean for their vacation. Long delays in getting Visas have also hampered business travel to the U.S. This loss of leisure and business travel in the last decade was estimated to have cost the U.S. $606 billion dollars in new revenue and 467,000 lost jobs. The United States issued 6.5 million Visas in 2010, 1.1 million fewer than in 2001. During the past decade the U.S. share of world tourism declined from 17% to 11% of the market.

Foreign tourists from emerging economies like China, India and Brazil who’ve wanted to visit the U.S. for pleasure or business have found it increasingly difficult to get Visas, because there are only 5 Consular offices in all of China, and in Brazil where there are 4 U.S. Consular offices, there is a 120-145 day wait just for interviews for a Visa. The average Chinese tourist would be willing to spend $6200 to vacation in the U.S. The White House estimates that 1 American job would be created for every 65 foreign visitors.

With the Obama Administration’s jobs billed stalled in Congress thanks to an intransigent GOP, President Obama has seized on the idea that an increase in foreign tourism could be one way to spur U.S. job growth giving the U.S. a much needed economic bonanza. Tourist and business groups like the U.S. Travel Association estimate that eased tourist requirements could possibly restore tourism to 2001 levels bringing over 1.3 million jobs to the U.S. over the next decade and add $860 billion in economic activity by 2020.

Speaking January 19 2012 at Disney World in Orlando in front of the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella castle, President Obama outlined new steps made possible via his Presidential Executive Order that would make it easier for foreign visitors to travel here. He declared that "America is open for business. "We want to welcome you . . . We've got the best product to sell. I mean, look at where we are. We've got the most entertaining destinations in the world. This is the land of extraordinary natural wonders."

The Order provides for the number of Visa Consults to be increased. The State and Homeland Security departments would be required to boost the capacity for issuing Visas in China and Brazil by 40% this year. In addition, he stipulated that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants from foreign countries would have to be interviewed within three weeks by U.S. consular staffs. In addition Obama’s Executive Order would have VISA interview requirements eased to encourage those renewing a Visa, Seniors and more young people (like Brazilians) to come here for a visit, which would result in new tourism related jobs. 
Visitors from Taiwan would no longer need Visas to vacation here, something citizens of 36 nations, mostly in Western Europe and from Japan and Australia, now enjoy. The Obama Executive Order would make permanent the Global Entry program, a program which allows travelers who undergo rigorous background checks to breeze through customs. The Executive Order also expands a Visa waiver program that lets participating nationals travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less without a Visa. President Obama ordered the Commerce and Interior departments to develop a national tourism strategy that highlights national parks, and cultural and historic sites. Finally, he's invited business executives to join a tourism advisory board.

Additionally, Obama used his radio and Internet address Saturday, January 22, 2012 to bring further attention to steps he outlined at Florida’s Walt Disney World on Thursday to make it easier for foreign tourists to travel to the U.S. “He said: “We want more visitors coming here. We want them spending money here. It’s good for our economy, and it will help provide the boost more businesses need to grow and hire . . . Too often “we’ve seen Congress drag its feet and refuse to take steps we know will help strengthen our economy. . . .” 


President Obama is doing everything within his power to foster job growth and return America to prosperity and decrease the Deficit. Faced with stiff Congressional GOP inaction and opposition to his job’s bill, President Obama did the right thing. He exercised the power of the Executive Order granted to him by the Constitution to take immediate assertive action to ease and fast track foreign tourist Visas so more foreign leisure and business travelers could come to the U.S. This is not the first time Obama has assertively used Executive Actions for the benefit of all Americans: he has done so to give states more flexibility to help children meet higher educational standards, helped small businesses with federal contracts get paid at a faster rate, offered incentives for companies to hire veterans and helped families refinance their mortgages.

Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association declared: “The steps the president took today are significant and will boost travel to and within the United States . . . "His (Obama's) timing could not be better. Travel is an essential industry for our nation and a bipartisan issue that can unite our country and rally us forward . . . Most importantly, they will lead to new American jobs and get our economy moving." Nelson Martin, owner of Highstar Travel Group that targets tourists from Latin America, called the president's announcement a "huge step" in attracting Brazilians. He described the wait time at Brazilian consular offices as “going on vacation before going on vacation . . . the lines go out the door and around the corner. The demand is incredible."