Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at long waits for U.S. visas, Accor's business travel forecast, and Lebanon’s tourism focus.
Skift Daily Briefing Podcast
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Good morning from Skift. It’s Tuesday, August 2 in New York City. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.
International visitors have come to the U.S. in larger numbers in recent weeks after it lifted its Covid testing requirement for inbound air travelers. But Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes a significant barrier is preventing the U.S. from making a full recovery — the protracted wait time for visitor visas.
Citizens of countries outside the U.S. Visa Waiver Program — including India, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil — must apply for a visa to visit the U.S., Habtemariam notes. And those prospective visitors have faced longer wait times in the last two years to even get an appointment for a visa. The average wait time now for a visitor visa appointment is close to 250 days. That figure was only 17 days prior to March 2020, according to think tank Cato Institute.
That slow visa processing time — caused in part by labor shortages at U.S. consulates and embassies worldwide — has prevented visitors from many of the country’s biggest source markets from returning in full force. The U.S. Travel Association estimates the number of visas processed for Brazilian travelers fell from 46,000 pre-pandemic to 8,000 this year. The organization added that if the U.S. government reduced visitor visa wait times to less than 30 days, the country could attract 2 million more international visitors.
We turn to Lebanon next. The country, battered by an economic crisis in recent years, is turning to its diaspora to resurrect its tourism industry, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.
Lebanese leaders — such as Tourism Minister Walid Nassar — are urging its expatriates to come home this summer as part of its new tourism campaign. Lebanon’s tourism industry is heavily dependent on its expat community, with members of its diaspora representing 75 percent of the country’s tourism arrivals this June. Close to 16 million people of Lebanese descent are living outside of the country, Bhutia notes.
However, other Lebanese tourism officials believe the government needs to do more to boost visitor numbers. Tour guide Abbas Ayoub argues a new campaign won’t be enough to attract prospective visitors, arguing that the government should work to make airline tickets more affordable and improve infrastructure in the country.
Finally, dozens of travel companies have expressed confidence about corporate travel making progress in its recovery. However, Accor believes 20 percent of business meetings in Europe will be permanently gone, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons.
The Paris-based hotel giant attributed — in a report published on Monday — that sizable reduction to the rise of virtual meetings and the increasing need for travel executives to justify business travel. One business leader said companies need to prove they are actively reducing their carbon footprint. The report, which is part of Accor’s Master of Travel series, featured corporate leaders sharing their views on future business travel demand.
However, the report stated there’s still a compelling need for face-to-face meetings, Parsons writes. Accor’s own research found that workers expect to make 25 percent more revenue from face-to-face meetings than virtual ones.