Friday, October 7, 2011

Can the U.S. Visa Process Keep Up With Tourism Growth?

Beatrice Camp, US Consul General, speaks with Chinese applicants for U.S. visas.
 According to executives and Obama administration professionals, some of the security measures instated since 9/11 have stalled hospitality industry growth by discouraging the growing middle class to travel to the U.S.

There has been a significant increase in travel outside one’s home country in the last ten years, but the U.S. travel numbers have not reflected this trend.  From 2000 to 2010 there was a 40 percent increase in global long haul travel, travel to another country, but the U.S. share in the same time period actually dropped from 17 percent to 12 percent.

The Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a group of outside advisors, wants the State Department to increase the capacity for processing visas and to streamline the process in key emerging countries.  Countries like China, Brazil and India have an ever growing middle class but the wait times for visa interviews can make travel to the U.S. difficult.  In some parts of China the wait for a visa interview is up to 39 days and in Brazil it can be up to 4 months.

State Department officials say they plan to expand the capacity to process visas by 30 percent in the next year for high-demand countries.  They will also be creating the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a non-profit group that will promote U.S. tourism abroad.

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