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Travel Executives Urge U.S. Government to Expand Visa Waiver Program

@SamShankman

Jun 25, 2014 7:30 am

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Easing infrastructure and policy hurdles to tourism are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to quickly increase tourism and travel spend from the fastest growing outbound markets.

— Samantha Shankman

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The top of a United States visa stamp. Getty Images


America’s largest travel companies and associations are coming together and using the World Cup as a marketing opportunity to encourage change in U.S. travel policies.

Major associations like the U.S. Travel Association and American Hotel & Lodging Association and major corporations including Hilton, Marriott, and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority are using Discover America Partnership to voice the benefits of easing the government’s visa waiver program to include Brazil, Poland, Israel and Croatia.

The campaign argues that 1.4 million jobs and $511 billion in travel spend is at stake if the U.S. government ignores the benefits of expanding the visa waiver program.

The organization cites visa challenges as one of main reasons that America’s share of the global travel market has slipped from the 17 percent in 2000 to 13 percent today.

The companies have reason to believe their fight is not futile. Other efforts to cut down visa and airport customs wait times have resulted in increased tourism from markets like Brazil and India.

Travel spend has also increased significantly from markets admitted into the visa waiver program. For example, spending by South Korean visitors increased 52 percent since it joined the program in 2008. Travel spend from Chilean visitors is expected to triple in the year following the country’s induction into the program.

While the relationship between the World Cup and visa waiver policies is weak, the discussion does come at a time when people across the world are thinking about travel for the games and for the summer.

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