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US seeks to attract more visitors
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15:03, July 06, 2007

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The United States has lost billions of dollars and an immeasurable amount of good will since the September 11 terrorism attacks because of a decline in foreign tourists.

Several senators are now trying to get the US government involved in bringing those visitors back.

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill to establish a nonprofit public-private corporation to promote the United States as a tourist destination and clear up misperceptions about US travel policies. It also would create a new office in the Commerce Department to work with other agencies on fixing visa policies and entry processes that discourage visits.

Visits to the United States from countries outside of Canada and Mexico totaled 21.7 million in 2006, down 17 percent from a peak of 26 million in 2000, according to Commerce Department figures. In the same period, cross-border travel around the world was up 20 percent.

"The global pie of international travel is steadily increasing, while the US share has been slowly decreasing," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association.

Visits from the six countries that provide the most tourists - Britain, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea and Australia - have dropped 15 percent since 2000 while travel from those six to other countries was up a robust 39 percent. There were 4.2 million arrivals from Britain last year, down 11 percent from 2000, and 3.7 million visits from Japan, down 27 percent.

"It's a situation that really is disastrous when you take into account the overall global trends in international travel, and the fact that the US currency makes travel to the country so attractive," said Adam Sacks, managing director for tourism economics at Oxford Economics. The weakening of the dollar against the euro and other currencies makes the money of foreign tourists go further.

Oxford Economics, in a recent analysis of travel policies written with former Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge, said the 17 percent drop in visits since 2000 has cost the United States $100 billion in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in lost tax receipts.

It noted that the United States is the only global destination without an ongoing program to promote itself. Greece spends $150 million a year, Australia $113 million and Britain $90 million.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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