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Canning US visa waiver plan could cull 11 000 jobs

Apr 07 2016 18:23
Carin Smith

Dallas – Basically if there is no security there is no travel, emphasised Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, at the AGM of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) taking place in Dallas this week.

The US Travel Association represents all segments of travel in the US. It is estimated that the US travel industry is responsible for generating about $2.1trn in economic output each year.

“Sound security policies is very important in order to allow legitimate travellers to get into a country with the least trouble, while making it much harder for the ‘bad guys’ to get in,” said Dow.

He expects that one of the first things the new US president elect will address would be the current visa waiver programme. The review is regarded as needed after the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, explained Dow.

The US’s visa waiver programme allows for pre-approval of citizens from about 38 countries to travel to the US visa free. It is estimated that last year 52 million international travellers used this programme to travel to the US and they spent about $170bn during their visits.

Dow estimates that, should the visa free programme be scrapped, about 14 million fewer visitors would come to the US, putting about 11 000 jobs at stake.

“The visa free programme is important for public diplomacy and we are all for the importance of smart enhancements thereof, but not to cancel it,” said Dow.

In his view those who oppose the visa waiver programme are not clear about the misconceptions about it.

According to Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, the public/private partnership responsible for marketing the US as a tourism destination, pointed out that about 75 million international travellers visited the US in 2015. The partnership wants to increase this over the next number of years to 100 million visitors per year.

“About 31% of the service exports of the US is tied to travel and tourism,” said Thompson. “We are storytellers aiming to encourage visitors.”

He regards the Chinese tourism market as important in reaching the aim of 100 million international visitors per year.

Thompson also said that Brand USA recognises that security must be paramount in the travel and tourism industry, but that it is also important to understand the contribution the industry makes to an economy.

That is why both he and Dow are all for the US’ visa waiver programme to be improved, but certainly not shut down.

* Fin24 is a guest of the WTTC at its AGM.


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