According to Freeman, US Travel's mission is simple: increasing travel to and within the United States and maintaining international inbound travel is a key component of that growth.
“Demand from the United States is strong, but we need to continue to grow the incoming sector. In fact, the Biden administration has set a goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors and $279 billion in annual spending by 2027. To meet this goal, we must focus on removing barriers to international travel."
“As a country, we need to remain competitive…to look around the corner and anticipate challenges that weren't on our radar 5 or 10 years ago. We need to constantly evolve to meet new demands… to ensure that our entry process is not only secure, but also simple and welcoming,” Freeman said.
While there has been some progress, there are still a number of hurdles affecting international inbound travel. Here are what US Travel considers to be the top four issues facing our industry.
Reduced Wait Times for Visa Interviews
Excessive wait times for visa interviews affect many valuable US source markets. Major visa-requiring markets face average wait times for interviews of more than 500 days. US Travel is leading the charge and lobbying the government to resolve this issue. The State Department has made some progress and legislation to reduce wait times will soon be introduced in the US Congress. And while these are steps in the right direction, the Biden administration needs to understand the seriousness of this problem.
To communicate the cost of these outrageous waits, US Travel launched an initiative called "They Wait, We Lose" that includes an award-winning website, USVisaDelays.com, to collect testimonials from international travelers and U.S. companies on how travel times are affecting them. wait. .
Address US Customs entry delays
Another critical issue that requires government attention is the excessive and inconsistent wait times at Customs. At half of the major airports of entry, on more than a third of the days in April, there were points where maximum wait times exceeded two hours for non-US citizens. The process should be as efficient and safe as possible. The US should add more pre-clearance locations around the world to help ease the pressure while ensuring there are enough customs officers at airports and other ports of entry. US Travel advocates for additional CBP staff, but in the long term, he hopes to see a policy change so that low-risk arrivals don't have to meet with a CBP officer.
Enhancing the Air Travel Experience
The US aspires to have a world-class system, one that is fully equipped to meet demand and to do so efficiently. US Travel is engaged with transportation and security experts to create a 10-year vision for the UStravel system, one that is seamless, secure, modern and efficient. The association seeks this by advocating for increased participation in the trusted traveler program, expanded biometric technology at screening checkpoints, and doubling the list of Pre-Authorization locations around the world.
Increasing our global competitiveness
Other countries have been aggressively competing to increase their market share, and the United States must do the same. The United States has never had a high-level Senate-confirmed official tasked solely with developing and coordinating a national strategy on travel and tourism. However, the recent creation of the position of Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism within the US Department of Commerce could help put the US on a par with all other G20 nations, which have tourism ministers. Congress is still working on the process to fully fund this office, but this is nonetheless a huge victory for the country's global competitiveness.
“We have made a lot of progress rebuilding international travel since the world went into lockdown over three years ago. But there is much more potential to grow this sector in the years to come and build an industry that works together more seamlessly to improve and modernize our systems and remain fiercely competitive in the global travel marketplace,” Freeman concluded.