USA – tourists unwelcome

LA Times correspondent Eric Lucas has an article headlined “Tourists need not apply” that explores an oft heard theme outside the US – Fortress USA. Lucas writes that “Travel is booming worldwide — except in the United States. And that woman’s experience represents just one reason why”. The woman he refers to lives in Belize with a daughter in LA who she would like to visit but for the daunting prospect of a trip to the US embassy and the cost of a visa ($100 – whether accepted or not).

The LA Times story records how “Overseas arrivals to the U.S. have declined 11% this decade, to 23 million in 2007 from 26 million in 2000. Travel is the world’s largest industry, currently worth $5 trillion, and it is growing 6% a year. It employs almost a quarter of a billion people. And yet the U.S. is missing out on this wonderful human commerce”.

Lucas’ story has a personal element to it as he writes of how “A colleague of mine has a business in Brazil, and one of his investors conceived the idea of taking his family to Walt Disney World. This wealthy businessman, who could buy a whole hotel in the U.S., never mind hotel rooms, flew to Sao Paulo, paid $500 ($100 a person) to apply for a visa, and patiently spent an hour answering questions. Two weeks later he was turned down. The letter suggested that he reapply ($500 more, please!) but, surprise, he took his family to Europe. Brazilians don’t need visas to enter the EU”.

At a professional level too, the US does not make its presence felt. Major tourism shows that US companies routinely fail to show up include the Arabian Travel Market, Singapore’s ITB-Asia. Both markets represent a wealth of potential tourists to the US. The situation is not much better for World Travel Fair in Shanghai that starts within a month. There is only one exhibitor from the US. Clearly the US is losing out and fast both in terms of dollars and goodwill.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.