|VISIT FLORIDA Commends New White House Travel Initiatives|
Today, President Obama gave tremendous visibility to the Florida tourism industry when he called for the development of a national travel and tourism strategy while speaking at Walt Disney World in Orlando. In addition to the creation of an intra-agency task force on travel promotion strategies, the President called for improvements to the visa process, expanded the Global Entry Program and announced the appointment of new members to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
I was privileged to be in attendance at today’s event and later sworn in as one of the 32 private sector CEOs to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board tasked with advising the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. I look forward to serving on the board with my fellow tourism executives and to having the opportunity to work closely with Secretary Bryson over the next two years.
I commend the administration’s new initiatives, especially those efforts toward visa reform that will lessen the inconveniences international travelers experience when visiting the United States. Making it easier for travelers from Brazil, China and other countries to visit the Sunshine State equates to increased tourism spending and more jobs for Floridians.
Below are some highlights of the President’s initiatives announced today as detailed by the White House.
New Pilot Program and Rule Change for Visa Processing in China and Brazil
Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as individuals from any country renewing non-immigrant visas, or, in Brazil, younger or older first-time applicants. Click here to see the fact sheet for more information.
Final Rule to Expand and Make the Global Entry Program Permanent
Global Entry is a program within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection that was created as a pilot in 2008 to facilitate expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. Due in part to innovative public-private partnerships, the Global Entry program now has more than 246,000 members, more than one million trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits, and efforts are underway to expand enrollment even further. There are currently 131 Global Entry kiosks at 20 airports and since launching, members have used Global Entry kiosks over 1.7 million times, saving CBP officers over 36,450 inspection hours—staff hours that CBP has then re-allocated to expedite regular passenger queues. This final rule will allow the program to be expanded to an additional 4 airports in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix, making the Global Entry program and expedited clearance available in airports that service approximately 97% of international travelers.
Appoint New Members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board
A new membership of 32 private sector CEOs have been appointed by Commerce Secretary Bryson to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will build upon the work undertaken by the past Board addressing travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues. This Board consists of corporate executives across the nation, representing all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed to a two-year term to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. Click here to see the full list of new members.
Nomination of Taiwan to Visa Waiver Program
Currently, more than 60% of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program. The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to promote travel and tourism with our foreign partners, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. Since November 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has added nine countries to the Visa Waiver Program, bringing the program total to 36 countries.
The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior were charged with:
- Co-leading an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel & Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. This Task Force will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion (currently doing business as BrandUSA), a non-profit corporation established by Congress through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 to promote travel to the United States, and the Tourism Policy Council to ensure private sector participation and cross-agency coordination.
- A particular focus of the Task Force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. The Department of the Interior manages iconic destinations in our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe. In 2010, more than 400 million visits were made by American and international travelers to these lands, contributing nearly $50 billion in economic activity and 400,000 jobs. Eco-tourism and outdoor recreation also have an outsize impact on rural economies, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security were charged with:
- Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012.
- Ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
- Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and expanding reciprocal trusted travel programs for expedited travel (such as the Global Entry program).
The Department of Commerce was charged with:
- Establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States.
Today, the President spoke to the power of travel as a tool for American business in a global economy, improving America’s image around the world, and as a tool for economic development at home. His new initiatives should lead to concrete reforms and forward-looking strategies that will benefit our industry for years to come.
President & CEO