America lost a whopping $606 billion in “long haul” visitor spending in the decade between 2000 and 2010, U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow writes in today’s Wall Street Journal (via @patkiernan).The problem stems, in large part, from the safeguards put in place for international visitors after 9/11, which often require in-person interviews for visa applicants that have led to a huge visa processing backlog.
Take the example of a family of four living in Manaus, Brazil—a city of about two million people. Before the family can visit the U.S., each member needs to travel 1,250 miles to Brasilia for an interview at one of only four U.S. consulates in the country capable of processing visas. This ordeal alone can cost $2,650, and the process can drag out for more than four months.
By contrast, the same family from Brazil can travel to Europe without a visa for visits under 90 days. No wonder six million travellers from China, India and Brazil visited Western Europe last year while only 2.6 million came to the U.S. This self-inflicted wound is especially painful since travellers from China, India and Brazil rank first, second and fourth respectively in total spending once they get to the U.S.
No wonder America’s share of the “long haul” travel market dropped from 17% to 12% between 2000 and 2010.
To recapture its market share, a move that would create $859 billion in economic stimulus and 1.3 million new jobs by 2020, the U.S. must do a better job promoting travel in international markets and expand its visa waiver program, Dow says.
But Congress, which recently introduced a bill that would remove some of the biggest hurdles for visas and hire more consular officers, really holds the key to solving the problem, according to Dow.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.