Tourists in Chicago on Monday get a last look before a sculpture of Marilyn… (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to boost domestic and international tourism, including steps to increase annual visits by foreigners by more than 50% over the next nine years.
“Tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America every year. They stay in our hotels, they eat at our restaurants, they visit our attractions, and they help create jobs," President Obama said.
"At a time when too many Americans are still looking for work," he continued, "we need to make it easier for more people to visit this country and keep our economy growing.”
The administration has a central goal of luring 100 million foreign tourists a year by 2021 by expanding the number of people who can visit without obtaining visas, expediting visa processing and improving entry procedures at U.S. airports.
That number of visitors would inject $250 billion annually into the U.S. economy, the administration said. Last year, 62 million foreigners visited the U.S., spending a record $153 billion, according to the National Travel and Tourism Strategy report released Wednesday.
During peak times last year, waits for inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers exceeded two hours at Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the report said. The report said trusted traveler programs would expand to help process increased numbers of low-risk foreign visitors.
In January, Obama went to Disney World and said the U.S. needed a national strategy to expand tourism. He signed an executive order calling for a 40% increase in visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by the end of the year.
Obama directed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to head a task force to expand travel and tourism.
Among the steps the report recommends is expanding government efforts to promote the U.S. as a travel destination and improving the experience of foreign visitors through initiatives to provide more information and services to non-English speakers.
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At Disney World, Obama announces steps aimed at boosting tourism