Touting recent growth in the U.S. tourism industry, the Obama administration last week released a new report outlining steps to open the door even wider. Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the administration's Commerce Department outline specific action plans at the country's 17 biggest airports aimed at improving the arrival experience for international travelers.
That includes $20 million in public-private partnerships to install 340 additional automated passport control kiosks that reduce wait times by up to 30 percent. And the administration wants to eliminate the need for air passengers to complete the paper 6059b Customs Declaration form upon arrival by the end of 2016. Read the report here.
During the past five years, more than 333 million international visitors have traveled to the United States. Growth in spending from these visitors during this period has supported roughly 280,000 new American jobs. Preliminary estimates show the U.S. welcomed a record 74 million international visitors in 2014 alone, and these travelers spent a record $222 billion on expenses including food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, and local transportation, supporting 1.1 million jobs.
The administration's stated goal is to welcome 100 million travelers to the U.S. by 2021. A White House blog post explained how the U.S. will compete with other destinations.
"The United States is not alone in our efforts to attract international visitors and the jobs they support. We are competing with countless global destinations; therefore, the Obama Administration is focused on efforts to improve how we welcome travelers into the United States. For example, we have reduced visa wait times for international travelers and reached a new agreement with China that extends the validity of tourist and business visas to 10 years and student visas to five years. In the three months since this smart reform was enacted, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2014 ...
"We will assess the arrivals process from plane disembarkment to primary passport inspection and baggage collection to exiting the airport through final baggage inspection, and the task force will use the results of the assessments to inform ongoing improvement of the arrivals process."
The planned kiosks expedite inspections for many citizens returning from abroad and reduce officer interaction time by 45 percent to approximately 30 seconds. By shortening the line to see a CBP officer, the overall waiting time of all arriving travelers is reduced.