Travel to US declines despite global tourism boom

The US Commerce Department reports that the United States is the only major country in the world to which travel has declined, even though there’s a global tourism boom happening. The numbers are depressing: Japanese visits declined from 5 million in 2000 to 3.6 million in 2006, for example. So what’s the deal? With our crappy dollar, the US is becoming a bargain destination. So why aren’t tourists flocking to our shores?

The answer, according to a November 26 Newsweek article titled “America the Unwelcoming,” is, simply put, that it’s a pain in travelers’ rear ends just trying to get here. For example, it takes 69 days in Mumbai simply to process a visa request to the US (perhaps explaining a 10 percent decline in business travel to the US between 2004 and 2005 — while similar travel to Europe increased by 8 percent). Then, bureaucrats are being extra careful about granting visas — as the article stated, “No one wants to be the person who lets in the next terrorist.” Thus, any irregularity is cause to “stop, question, arrest and deport.”

Is it any wonder tourist numbers are declining?