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 U.S. 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.Now, a 17% drop in tourism overall may not sound like much, especially if you live in Bugtussle, Alabama, but to cities like, say, New York or Washington, it's pretty significant. New York's economy was driven by tourism these past six years since September 11, and on the face of things (particularly when it came to elbowing through crowds of gawking foreigners), the city was thriving on it. What makes this odd little statistic loom so large is, given the abject weakness of the American dollar against other currencies, we ought to be a leading destination for travellers, who like a bargain as much as the next guy.
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 U.S. 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.
I, of course, as a candidate for NotPresident in 2008, have both the problem figured out and a solution: