President Obama has just returned from Asia, where he had an extensive visit promoting U.S. exports. But here at home we’re doing all we can to increase exports and create more jobs because each time a visitor from abroad buys a hotel room in the United States, that counts as an export. We need more visitors to the United States from abroad and we can generate a lot more export dollars and more jobs.
I’ve talked about this before, particularly about the decline in overseas travel to the United States. Since the year 2000, America has lost 440,000 jobs and more than $500 billion in total travel-related spending. I continue to worry that our government isn’t doing enough to increase visitors to America from abroad.
In the depth of the downturn in 2009, nearly 900,000 Brazilians came to the U.S., marking a 16% increase from 2008. This supported over 41,000 jobs for our economy. The U.S. Commerce Department is projecting over 1.2 million Brazilian arrivals to our country in 2010 and over 2.6 million visitors in 2015. That’s a powerful growth rate, yet I’ve seen no significant plan to handle this incredible growth by making it easier to get a visa. The story repeats itself for China, India, and many other crucial and growing markets around the world.
These visitors are too great an economic opportunity to pass up, so I’m requesting that the Administration, specifically the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, develop a comprehensive policy to facilitate travel to the United States. Secretary Clinton needs to develop a long term strategy to increase facilities, staffing, and use of technology to meet the increased demand for visas. Secretary Napolitano should also continue to think about how we’re going to improve our ports of entry, our staffing models, and the welcome visitors receive, so they can help make these new visitor projections a reality.
There is no greater deterrent to this incredible economic potential than a cumbersome and, for far too many, an unfriendly visa and entry process. I’m committed to working with Congress to help get the funding for DHS and State, but they must do their part, too, by working with the hospitality industry. We certainly must continue to work toward improved visa and entry processes, and it’s the U.S. government that really holds the keys to what we can achieve.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.