The Obama administration set a goal of attracting 100 million annual international visitors to the U.S. by 2021, up from a projected 65.4 million this year.
The increase is expected to boost international visitor spending from $153 billion to some $250 billion.
The goal, announced in the middle of National Travel and Tourism Week, is the capstone of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, unveiled at a White House press conference by Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Along with other officials, they led the development of the strategy as co-chairs of the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, which President Obama created in January.
In addition to promoting international arrivals, the strategy calls for government efforts to “encourage Americans to travel within the U.S. and its territories.”
For the most part, the strategy does not create new initiatives but rather calls for greater emphasis on numerous ongoing programs, such as expanding the Visa Waiver Program, improving visa processing in countries where visas are still required, enhancing trusted-traveler programs, facilitating border crossings and working closely with Brand USA on informational and promotional activities abroad.
Bryson also said the Commerce Department will enhance its ability to work with the industry by developing a new National Travel and Tourism Office. A spokesman later explained that this will involve a revamping and renaming of the existing Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, now a unit of the Department’s International Trade Administration.
Also participating in the press conference was U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow, who said the strategy statement was a welcome and long-overdue accomplishment that “elevates travel and tourism” on the federal agenda.
He credited the administration for developing the policy in a matter of weeks, noting that “we’ve been talking about it for 16 years.”