LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Cinderella Castle as a backdrop and under a cloudless blue sky, President Barack Obama on Thursday issued a message to the world: “America is open for business.”
Obama earlier in the day issued an executive order to ease U.S. visa policies and expand the number of countries in the Visa Waiver Program, with the goal of increasing inbound U.S. tourism.
“I want America to be the number one tourist destination in the world,” Obama told the crowd at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
To do that, Obama said he has directed his administration to increase by 40% the visa-processing capacity in China and Brazil, where securing a visa to visit the U.S. can take up to a year.
He noted that Brazil and China have emerging middle classes and citizens with growing disposable income, but that onerous U.S. visa policies mean their citizens have difficulty getting to the U.S.
“People want to come here, and Brazil and China are two of the countries with the biggest backlogs,” Obama said.
“That’s what today is all about: telling the world that America is open for business.”
Obama said the new tourism strategy is part of his job-creation plan.
“The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Touching on the difficult balance between maintaining safe borders and the interests of the tourism sector, Obama said, “There’s no reason we can’t do both.”
Obama also said he is instructing his administration to expand the Visa Waiver Program to more nations, such as Taiwan.
In addition, the Obama administration aims to expand Global Entry, a program that allows expedited clearance at the airport for pre-screened international travelers.
While it has been suggested in the media that Obama’s speech was as much about his reelection campaign (Florida is projected to be a key swing state) as it was about tourism, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow commended Obama for being “the first sitting president to say that increasing travel and tourism is important.”
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