On January 19th, 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order and announced new administrative initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in and to the United States. The U.S. travel and tourism industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP, exports, and employment, and efforts to make America the top tourist destination in the world offer a tremendous opportunity to create jobs and strengthen the U.S. economy. International spending on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services set an all-time record of $153 billion in 2011, an 8.1 percent increase from 2010, and supported an additional 103,000 jobs for a total of 7.6 million industry jobs. This positive trend is continuing in 2012 with more than 4.2 million international visitors traveling to the United States in February 2012, a nine percent increase over February 2011, and the 11th straight month of increases in total U.S. visits.
Today's announcements reflect feedback from and partnerships with local communities and the private sector, as well as ongoing initiatives underway across the Federal government to leverage all of our national assets, and it lets the world know that America is open for business.
The United States competes with countries around the world to retain domestic and attract international travelers, but we have traditionally been at a competitive disadvantage as compared to other countries that have a “Ministry of Tourism” to coordinate nationwide efforts and have a national marketing campaign. In addition to the Executive Order establishing a Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, President Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act in 2010. The Federal government is taking concrete action to ensure more domestic and international tourists choose the United States:
Getting to America
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is the flagship of our international tourism strategy. Over 60 percent of all overseas travelers to the United States are from VWP countries. In 2010, these travelers generated over $60 billion in annual tourism revenue. While the VWP remains the largest travel facilitation program, the Obama Administration is also committed to easing travel for the approximately 40 percent of international travelers who currently require visas to enter the United States. Building on the progress made over the past several years and in response to the President's Executive Order, the Obama Administration is facilitating legitimate travel to America while maintaining security by:
Traveler Experience in America
Close to one million people enter the U.S. every day via ports of entry operated by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, with other Federal agencies and employees playing a critical role in providing the first impression of America and facilitating tourism throughout the country while maintaining security. The following represent a sampling of efforts underway at U.S. ports of entry and throughout the nation to improve the customer experience of travelers in America: