Travel association urges Obama to include Brazil, Chile in ESTA program

- Posted in America by Visa Bureauon 15 March 2011

The Visa Waiver Program allows business and leisure travellers from 36 participating countries to visit the US for up to 90 days by simply obtaining an ESTA rather than a more lengthy application process for a visa. The ESTA is an online travel authority that is simple to apply for and once approved is electronically attached to your passport.

The ESTA program allows easier travel to the US while simultaneously allowing the State Department to shift US Visa screening resources to higher risk countries. 

Last week, Roger Dow, US Travel’s president and chief executive officer, sent a letter to President Obama arguing that adding Brazil and Chile to the VWP would allow visitation from those countries to double, quickly generating $10.3 billion in spending and supporting 95,100 American jobs.
“Brazilian visitors spend on average $5,114 per person in the US, the highest spending among the top-10 countries with the most visitations to the US," Dow wrote.

“While the US share of Brazilian long-haul travel has improved in recent years, it still remains 14 percent below its share in 2000. Competitors such as Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Italy and Germany have attracted a larger share of this market than the United States in recent years, some seeing up to a 50 percent growth in arrivals."

US arrivals from Chile to the US totalled 127,000 in 2009, down 34 per cent from 2000, while during the same timeframe, total outbound long-haul travel from Chile to other countries increased more than 50 per cent.

Chilean travellers each spent an average of $4,600 during a US trip in 2009 and directly generated a total of $580 million which supported 5,300 US jobs.

"As Brazil and Chile’s economies continue to grow, we hope demand to travel to the US will follow. However, knowing that our consulates in Brazil are ill-prepared to meet current demand, we fear that increased demand will make getting a visa to travel the US even more cumbersome, only furthering the disadvantage the U.S. suffers against competing nations that offer visa-free travel to Brazilians and Chileans,” Dow wrote.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their  ESTA to the US Embassy.