The U.S. Commerce Department has unveiled new strategy aimed at accelerating international tourism by streamlining the country’s entry process and promoting more diverse destinations.
The new "National Travel and Tourism Strategy" sets a goal of 90 million international visitors by 2027 who will spend an estimated US$279 billion annually, topping pre-pandemic levels, Reuters reported on Monday (June 6).
The plan revolves around the U.S. federal government doing more to support the resurgence of travel and tourism so the sector can rebuild to be "more resilient, sustainable and equitable," according to a draft of the strategy.
In 2019, the U.S. had 79.4 million international visitors, a figure that tanked to 19.2 million in 2020 as the pandemic struck and rose to just 22.1 million in 2021.
Goals & objectives
One of the strategy's objectives is to modernize entry procedures for visitors to enter and travel within the United States.
Other goals include promoting tourism experiences beyond the coastal states, reducing tourism's contributions to climate change and building a sector that is resilient to natural disasters, public health threats and the impacts of climate change.
“The impact of COVID-19 has taken a toll on our national and local economies, but it also has presented us with a unique opportunity to mold a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient travel and tourism industry than ever before. Our new strategy leverages the best of what the U.S. public and private sectors offer, which will promote jobs, recover lost revenues, and inspire unforgettable experiences,” said Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo in a statement.
End pre-travel testing, says U.S. Travel
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, has applauded the plans, saying the strategy comes at an “important time when international travel spending in the U.S. was still 78 per cent below 2019 levels in 2021.”
“The strategy sets out specific actions that the government can take to rebuild our travel economy and make it more globally competitive than it was before the pandemic,” Dow said in a statement on Monday.
But the Biden administration must start by “immediately repealing” the pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement for all vaccinated international air travellers and taking steps to drastically lower visa wait times, Mr. Dow noted.
“More than 40 nations have safely removed their pre-departure testing requirement and a recent survey found that 54 per cent of international travellers were less likely to visit the U.S. with the requirement still in place,” Dow stated. “Average wait times for visa appointments have also soared to more than a year in some of our top source markets, which prevents millions of people from visiting.”