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Our Image Abroad:
Did you know that travel and tourism generate $1.3 trillion in economic activity in the U.S. every year. That equates to $3.4 billion a day, $148 million an hour, $2.4 million a minute and $40,000 a second. Those figures come from the Travel Industry Association of America, and that is an impressive amount of money.
But sadly, it reflects a serious weakness in our tourism economy.
Attending a conference sponsored by the TIA,
I just learned that since 2001 tourism by visa-exempt countries, the Japanese and Europeans for example, coming to the United States is down an astounding 17%. That represents millions of people and billions of dollars in potential wealth that should be coming into America but is being spent mostly in Europe instead; despite the fact that Europeans have a huge currency exchange rate advantage with one Euro equal to 1.31 Dollars.
What is causing this imbalance? There are political arguments concerning world opinion about the U.S., but according to the UK Travel Barometer, since 2004, UK citizens are consistently attributing the top barrier to travel to the U.S. as entry procedures, from poor information about requirements to long visa processing times. Our worries about terrorism have resulted in practices by our Customs and Border Protection departments that many foreign nationals say are considerably daunting and unfair to them.
As Jonathon Tisch, chairman of the TIA says, "When an overseas traveler arrives in the United States, his first point of contact is a Customs and Border Protection Officer, and it could take up to two hours in line before this exchange even takes place. Being in the hotel business, I understand that you never get a second chance to make a first impression."
So, instead of making our daunting entrance procedures the "first impression" foreign nationals have of the U.S., make yourself their first impression of us, by reaching out to them in their homelands and encouraging them to come and visit. Let them know how welcoming we can be, as citizens of the United States. It's good for them, it's good for us, it's good for the U.S.
With so many cruisers going to Europe this summer, as well as Asia, Australia and elsewhere, I encourage all of you to remember that we are America's ambassadors. Offer a smile, polite conversation, and even an invitation to the locals to come and visit the United States.
Having just returned from Europe myself, I can tell you it is extremely crowded and expensive over there. There were already thousands of tourists from the USA over there as early as March this year, but also it is jam-packed with other European nationals taking advantage of the recently opened EU borders.
Some of the crowds I have seen in London and Paris the last few years are like Times Square on New Years Eve. Hardly conducive to sightseeing and family fun. So, let the Europeans know that it's a great time to visit the U.S. Why? not only because we are not nearly as crowded over here as the European capitals are this year. but the U.S. Dollar is extremely cheap, too.