Dominica

Published on Thursday, May 1, 2008

Rise in overseas visitors to US remains disappointing

The cheap dollar is helping to gradually lure more overseas visitors, but tourism officials are still disappointed by turnouts that have been dropping since 9-11.

Overseas visits to the US jumped 10% in 2007.The trend appears to have accelerated this year as foreigners hunt for travel bargains in America’s largest and best-known cities, said the AP.

"With the dollar the way it is, the business should be extraordinary," said Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the US Travel Industry Association. "We're just not getting the people we should be."

Foreign tourism is among a handful of bright spots in an otherwise grim US economic picture, however, according to the US Federal Reserve Board. In its "beige book" survey of regional activity. the group found "particular strength in foreign visitors" in several parts of the country.

In Boston, for example, the Fed credited the "favourable exchange rate and pent-up demand" for a "large increase" in travellers from Britain, Ireland, Germany and Japan.

But travel industry officials said the recent resurgence of foreign travel is misleading. The country is still attracting two million fewer overseas visitors a year than it did before Sept. 11 - 23.9 million in 2007 versus 26 million in 2000, according to US Commerce Department figures.

The numbers for overseas visitors exclude those from Canada and Mexico.

The US tourism industry is fighting a perception that visitors are not welcome and that it's tougher than ever to get here because of more restrictive entry procedures, Mr Dow complained.

He pointed out that global travel has skyrocketed since 2000. But relatively fewer travellers are opting to come to the US.

The industry estimates that the United States should have attracted more than 33 million overseas visitors last year, based on international travel trends. That's nearly 10 million fewer than it actually did, representing billions of dollars in losses to the economy, Mr Dow said.

Visits last year from key markets, including Britain, Japan, Germany and Brazil, were all well below 2000 levels.

The travel industry has been lobbying Congress to speed up visa and entry delays. It also wants Washington to impose fees on foreign travellers to fund an international tourism advertising campaign.

Report by David Wilkening

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  • US Visitor Growth Dissapoints.

    April visits to Cheapflights.co.uk site by travellers searching for flights to the USA show that the US is in fact maintaining its monthly top destination spot. Searches for US destinations are up 18% on April last year no doubt fuelled by the cheap dollar. However, this growth is disappointing compared with some non euro zone destinations such as Egypt's Sharm El Sheikh which saw a 50% rise in searches year on year. Whilst disputes in the US over visitor fingerprinting continue, as highlighted by Travelmole today, tourism visitors will probably continue to avoid the potential hassle of US entry. Especially so if other destinations offer easier entry procedures and favourable exchange rates. A long haul flight followed by a long haul through an often rigorous immigration proceedure is probably not the best recipe for boosting tourism numbers.

    By John Barrington-Carver, Tuesday, May 6, 2008

  • Taxing tourists

    Raising a tax tax on incoming tourists seems a strange way of attracting more of them!

    By Simon Wadleigh, Tuesday, May 6, 2008

  • Improve your welcoming committee

    Visitors are unhappy at the way they are treated on arrival at US airports the manners of a large percentage of imigration officers is disgraceful

    By Chris Roberts, Tuesday, May 6, 2008

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