Visit Florida

Published on Thursday, November 16, 2006

America’s image abroad: a crisis

Business leaders from some of the country’s best known travel companies are making a trek to the nation’s capitol this week to suggest ways international visitors are welcomed into the US.

“America’s declining image has an enormous impact on the country’s economic and national security,” said Stevan Porter, president of InterContinental Hotels Group and chairman of Discover America Partnership.

The Partnership is running a non-stop advocacy campaign designed to educate plicy-makers on the power of travel. The group is highlighting obstacles to welcoming visitors and doing research to find better ways to handle international tourists.

He and others are citing a Pew Globe Attitudes Poll that found the US is suffering from a rapidly declining image aboard. In most nations, favorable views of the country has plummeted to well below 50%.

International travelers are increasingly complaining about bad experiences from tightened security and immigration officials.

“We are not exactly greeted warmly by your immigration and customs people,” Gilliam Evans told The Orlando Sentinel in an e-mail. “We often are made to feel we are being viewed with suspicion and mistrust and they only appear to be waiting for the slightest reason to be rid of us.”

One way travel officials are trying to gain a more favorable image is a “model airport” program announced last January. The program aims to revamp the way international travelers are greeted and questioned as they arrive at US airports and go through Customs and Border Protection.

The program is getting its trial run at the George Bush Intercontinental Houston Airport.

Walt Disney World and theme park officials are contributing their expertise in handling crowds. The pilot program is incorporating such long-time theme park staples assigns telling travelers how long a wait can be expected.

“They (theme parks) are able to move large crowds of people efficiently, keep them happy and keep them informed, and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Rick Webster, vice president of government affairs for the Travel Industry Association of America.

He said customer service is a key part of the program. Customs and security officials need to learn to be more courteous, he added.

Report by David Wilkening

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  • A long overdue initiative

    I used to visit the US 6 or 7 times a year. Immigration was friendly, and I had a B1 business visa that allowed me to come and go as I pleased. The first time I noticed a change was in January 2000 when I flew into Miami, so this was before 9/11, and the treatment I received was rude to the point of being threatening. Very unpleasant and not an experience I wish to repeat. America could be one of the great tourist destinations of the world but they have to start treating their visitors with respect. It may come as a great surprise to American immigrations staff but most of us have no desire to live in the US and we don't wish America any harm, so stop assuming that if we want to visit we are either terrorists or illegal immigrants.

    By Martin Drew, Wednesday, November 2, 2016

  • US is on our banned list for meetings

    I run an international organisation. We have a policy that we do not meet in any country that treats citizens of any nationality differently. USA is on our list of no-go countries. For our members from the global South it is a nightmare to get visas and treatment on landing is not good. Unfortunately we still have to travel to the US for UN meetings. It might be OK for the tourist but for the regular traveller it is not a top destination.

    By Denys Correll, Friday, November 17, 2006

  • About time!

    I just hope that they can get things to change.

    By Rob Tulloch, Friday, November 17, 2006

  • Crisis - what crisis?

    The good news is that if you were to ask the British public at least (that's what we do - 1,000 every month since 2004) - you'd get a very different story. Some of our very latest research - out this month - shows that the UK consumer is still very much interested in visiting the USA. Looking at our consumer tracking data from just the last four months - we've been asking people "What would their dream destination be if time and money were no object". Each month the USA comes in second, only beaten by Australia & New Zealand. There was a small dip in September's data, but October has seen a recovery back to usual levels. Finally, we also ask consumers each month which destinations have they actually booked for their next trip. The USA comes in third behind the usual favourites France and Spain. USA figures are 4% up from Jul 06. So perhaps it's just fashionable to 'America Bash' right now - however - as far as the UK consumer is concerned (and we should know) USA is very much still ay OK. Jeff Marketing Director, TripVision Ltd. www.trip-vision.com

    By Jeff Rhys-Jones, Friday, November 17, 2006

  • Wasted Opportunities, Ineffective Programs

    The US, or to be precise the Pentagon, is spending $400 million to plant fake favorable stories about the US policies. They believe that this is the right way to improve the failing US image abroad. This Administration, so visibly pampered during the WTTC meetings in DC, needs major policy changes before it can expect any improvement of image. Sadly the right people are not in place, neither are the right advisers, or the right mechanism. The industry leaders, who so praised the wrong people at WTTC, would do better going golfing in Florida!

    By Alan Simpson, Friday, November 17, 2006

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