LEXINGTON, Kentucky – Citing the power of travel to fuel economic recovery and create jobs, President Barack Obama today ordered a series of initiatives targeted at increasing travel and tourism in the United States. More than ever before, the US travel and tourism industry is now viewed as a key contributor to the nation’s economic vibrancy, said Lisa Simon, president of NTA.
“With President Obama’s action today, the travel and tourism industry has reached an all-time high in terms of vigor and visibility,” said Simon, “His executive order, combined with the recent creation of Brand USA and ongoing Congressional hearings on travel issues, shows the vital economic contributions of tourism.”
The president’s initiatives include making the visa application process faster and simpler; expanding the Global Entry program, which provides expedited entry for trusted travelers; and creating a task force to develop a strategy for promoting travel to and within the United States.
“The president has sent a clear message about tourism’s positive impact on job creation and economic growth,” said Simon, “We applaud the administration’s work to ease entry processes for international visitors.”
NTA is acutely aware of the benefits of streamlining the visa application process. Under a grant from the US Department of Commerce, the association operates the NTA Visit USA Center in China. And while the association has seen a 286 percent increase in travelers participating with its China Inbound Program during the last two years, Simon said Chinese citizens often must travel great distances and wait for weeks to receive a visa to enter the United States.
Increasing the visa application process has been one of several tourism-related subjects of Senate hearings in recent months. President Obama’s order today calls for a 40 percent increase in the capacity for visa processing during the coming year. It also expands the visa waiver program.
Brand USA is the promotional arm of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, established by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 with the goal of increasing the number of international inbound travelers. Today’s executive order creates the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness with the charge to work with Brand USA to increase the United States’ market share of worldwide travel. The task force is also charged with promoting travel to US national parks and expanding tourism opportunities in rural communities.