10 October 2011

Tourism industry calls for US visa reform

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A fall in tourism industry jobs this month has been met with renewed calls for US visa reform.

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The US Travel Association has proposed four reforms of the US visa process aimed at increasing economic stimulus and creating jobs.

10,000 jobs have been slashed in the American tourism and travel industry according to figures published by The Economist yesterday.  After a number of months of consecutive growth, the number of jobs in the field has now fallen to 7.5 million against a backdrop of 9.1% national unemployment.

But despite the recent slump, industry bodies say that the industry is faring well relatively when yearly figures are analysed. David Huether of the US Travel Association (USTA) has emphasised the potential job opportunities in the sector.

"So far this year the travel industry has added 94,300 jobs and accounts for 9% of the 1 million jobs added to-date in 2011. The fact that employment in the travel industry has expanded at a pace 60% faster than the rest of the economy highlights the fact that travel in the US, whether by domestic or international persons, has been an important force in 2011 US job creation," he said.

The USTA website claims that if the Government reduced obstacles to obtaining a US visa, 1.3 million new jobs could be created by 2020 as well as $859 billion in cumulative additional economic output.

According to a statement on the website's homepage, "increasing travel to the United States is the most effective form of economic stimulus".

The current visa processing procedure, the organisation maintains, is "long, uncertain and costly". The USTA proposes four key reforms of the US visa system: aligning visa resources with market demands in order to increase market share of international travel from China, India and Brazil; reducing visa interview wait times to 10 days or less; improving visa planning, measurement and transparency; and expanding the visa waiver program by negotiations for bilateral immigration agreements with countries such as Brazil, Chile, Poland and Taiwan and eliminating visa requirements for media personnel.

The USTA believes these reforms are conducive to the aforementioned economic benefits. However, The Economist suggests that "the USTA and its allies are going to have a tough few years ahead of them if they want to force through some real change on this front".


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