Mayors Urge More Marketing
Spending As U.S. Tourism Drops Off
Troubled by steep declines in international tourism, mayors
nationwide are urging the federal government to spend more money on
marketing the United States and to make the entry process friendlier
Responding to a survey by Travel Business roundtable, mayors from
the country�s top travel destinations said tourism�a driving force
of the economy�needed to be a top priority.
The number of overseas visitors to the U.S. has dropped 17%
overall since its peak in 2000 and 20% in the top 15
cities...costing more than $100 billion in lost visitor spending
through 2005, according to the Commerce Department.
Tourism boosters blame lackluster marketing efforts. This year
the Commerce Department will spend $3.9 million on marketing to
foreign tourists. In comparison, Malaysia will spend $117.9 million.
As a result, tourism boosters believe that the U.S. is likely to
cede China in the next couple of years its position as the
third-most-visited international destination. France and Spain are
the top international tourism destinations.
Several factors are to blame, they say: America�s declining image
abroad, the difficulty and time it takes to get a visa and the
perception that U.S. ports of entry are unfriendly, understaffed,
and overzealous about security.
Of the mayors polled, 73% said that entry procedures and
treatment by U.S. immigration and customs officials reinforce
negative perceptions of the country, according to the survey results
released. Officials from the State Department said they agreed with
the mayors and travel industry, and have taken extra measures to
expedite visa processing.
Currently, visitors from 27 countries, mostly in Europe as well
as Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are not required to obtain
visas to travel to the U.S. However, visitors from other countries
must obtain them.