Bringing the Tourists Back22 Dec 2010
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, travel security measures ratcheted up to a level never seen before. Most of these heightened security measures were justified, because we could not afford to risk that another attack might be successful. Although we have had several close calls in recent years, thankfully none of the attempted attacks has succeeded; but the effect has forced us to retreat behind a cordon sanitaire of security measures, comforting as the Maginot Line may have been in its time, but leaving many in the outside world with the sense that Fortress America has pulled up the drawbridge.
To say that U.S. tourism declined sharply after 9/11 is putting it nicely; it actually went off a cliff. According to a recent news story on National Public Radio, the U.S. lost about 18,000 tourism jobs in the wake of those attacks, as millions upon millions of international travelers stayed away from the United States – ironically, as the story points out, just when a weak U.S. dollar, a strong global economy, and a rising tide of international travel should have brought more tourists to the United States. (See Travel Group Unites U.S. Tourism Strategy, by Sarah Gonzales, 14.Dec.2010, National Public Radio.) As NPR reports, a new partnership between the U.S. tourism industry and the federal government aims to turn the trend away from the United States with a program designed to promote the marquee destinations – New York City, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, and so on – as well as lesser-known points of interest in the rest of the country. This public-private partnership is called the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP), and its $200 million budget will come from a new $14 fee charged to foreign travelers entering the United States; NPR says that $10 of this fee will go to the CTP, and the remaining $4 to the Department of Homeland Security, to fund programs that will make the customs and immigration process more “friendly” to visitors.
We applaud this initiative, and wish the CTP and our friends at DHS all the best in implementing these new programs. They have their work cut out for them, getting “be friendly!” into the mix of things the frontline immigration officers need to think about – along with the ever-changing complex of security directives. It’s eminently worth the effort, and there is no reason we should not regain our status as a top tourism destination.