Fortress America turns off tourists

Foreigners have been avoiding holidays in the US since the September 11 attacks, and tourist chiefs are worried new security measures will turn the country into a fortress.

    Fewer visitors to the US is dampening the economy

    The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), worried about slumping revenues, last week asked President George Bush to reassess a recent tightening of regulations governing entry into the US.

     

    “Lucrative inbound international travel volume is at its lowest level in more than a decade and US share of world tourism has shrunk by 37% since 1992,” William Norman, president of the industry group, told Bush in a letter, reported AFP.

     

    “Well-intentioned procedures are being introduced by the Departments of State and Homeland Security that we believe will have a serious impact on an industry that comprises six percent of the nation's workforce," Norman added.

     

    Visa requirements

     

    The US government, at the beginning of this month, tightened visa requirements, tightened security regulations early in August, requiring some 90% of applicants be interviewed.

     

    Industry specialist say these measures will be the final straw, resulting in more people deciding to holiday elsewhere.

     

    The US economy, which is struggling to grow after two years of stagnation, needs tourism revenues. Last year’s 42 million visitors contributed some $88 billion to the world’s largest economy and supported about 1 million jobs.

     

    Airline companies, hotels and entertainment providers have all been affected by the three almost biblical plagues that have dented profits. Slumping global markets, the SARS epidemic and September 11 have all affected visitor numbers.

     

    Balance

     

    Though the government has set up a tourism promotion bureau, what really needs to do is strike a balance between national security and economic security, AFP reported.

     

    Without this balance, more jobs will be lost, and an economic recovery harder to sustain.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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