LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Praise for the executive order President Barack Obama issued Thursday to ease visa-processing in an effort to boost tourism came swiftly from around the travel industry.
U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow, on hand for the event, commended Obama for making travel a priority and being "the first sitting president to really say that increasing travel and tourism is important."
The White House noted that the domestic tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of the economy, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010, with international travel to the U.S. supporting 1.2 million jobs.
“The challenge travel and tourism faces is we are seen as frivolous — associated with fun and vacations,” Dow said. “We don’t get our due for the impact with jobs. The travel industry has been raising jobs 20% faster than the rest of the economy, than all other industries. It’s about time politicians realized what the opportunities are.”
Dow, who has been working with other members of the travel industry for years to convince the White House to institute the policies Obama announced Thursday, specifically applauded the new focus on increasing members of the Visa Waiver Program. He said that after South Korea was granted Visa Waiver status two years ago, tourism from South Korea increased 42% to the U.S., and only 2% to the rest of the world. Other countries U.S. Travel would like to see on the list are Argentina and Brazil.
“It is a major step forward for the world's biggest travel and tourism economy,” said David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council. "Today's announcement is the result of a long dialogue between the industry and the administration. It shows that President Obama does understand the economic and social value of travel and tourism.”
Scowsill urged other countries to look at the steps they can take to expand their own tourism industries.
“Difficulty in obtaining visas is one of the most pressing issues affecting the industry,” he said.
NYC & Company, New York’s tourism-promotion agency, said, “We have long advocated for visa reform measures to increase the number of international tourists to New York City.”
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said that expanding the Global Entry program would help ensure that international business travel to the U.S. continues to grow, as the process of clearing customs on return to the United States is made more efficient.
“President Obama’s speech echoes many points GBTA has made over the years, and we are pleased to see travel as a focal point in our national dialogue,” stated GBTA’s executive director, Michael McCormick. “The administration’s decision to expand the Global Entry program will make international air travel far more efficient for today’s business travelers.”