US sees sharp dropoff of foreign visitors, costing country estimated 200,000 in tourism-related jobs
The number of foreign visitors to the United States has plummeted since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington because foreigners don't feel welcome, tourism professionals said Thursday.
"Since September 11, 2001, the United States has experienced a 17 percent decline in overseas travel, costing America 94 billion dollars in lost visitor spending, nearly 200,000 jobs and 16 billion dollars in lost tax revenue," the Discover America advocacy campaign said in a statement.
Chairman Stevan Porter lamented the "extraordinary decline" in the number of overseas visitors to the United States, while the advocacy group's executive director, Geoff Freeman, blamed the slump on the shabby welcome many foreigners feel they get in the United States.
"It's clear what's keeping people away in the post-9/11 environment: it is the perception around the world that travelers aren't welcome," Freeman told AFP.
"Travelers around the world feel the US entry experience is among the world's worst," Freeman said, calling on the US government to work with the private sector to make visa acquisition more efficient, the entry process traveler-friendly, and to improve communication.
"We have put in place many reasonable security barriers but we have not communicated these barriers and we have not told travelers that we want their business," he said.
"Six years after 9/11, we need to take this more seriously," Freeman said.
"The United States has to do what every other nation in the world does, and that is to promote itself to visitors," he said.
"If you look at visitor numbers from the UK before 9/11, we had 4.8 million visitors. Last year, the number was 4.1 million.
"Looking to 2010, the Department of Commerce is projecting an increase in those numbers, but only of one percent over the course of 10 years.
"If I ran a business that had one percent growth in 10 years, I'd be fired," Freeman said.
The Discover America Partnership was set up by US business leaders last year to try and redress the flagging image of the United States and bring in more visitors.