Obama unveils new tourism policy

Washington: In a bid to make US the world`s top travel and tourism destination President Barack Obama today announced a new visa policy for "low risk" applicants to attract visitors from emerging economies like India, China and Brazil.

Obama travelled to the world famous "Disney Land" tourist resort in Florida to announce his new policy which he said would help America retain the status of top tourist destinations of the world.

"Let`s realise that in the years ahead, more and more tourists are going to come from countries, with rapidly growing economies, huge populations and emerging middle classes; countries like China, India and Brazil," Obama said.

Obama`s emphasis on these three countries is driven by the fact that tourists from India, China and Brazil contributed approximately USD 15 billion and thousands of jobs to the US economy in 2010.

Acknowledging that the current visa process makes it difficult for people from these countries to come to the United States, Obama said he has directed the State Department to accelerate America`s ability to process visas by 40 per cent in China and in Brazil this year.

"We`re not talking about five years from now or 10 years from now — this year," he said amidst applause.

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters travelling with the President on his way to Florida, that through an executive order and some other initiatives, the President is calling for a national strategy to make United States world`s top travel and tourism destination.

"The number of travellers from emerging economies– and this is one of the targets of the President`s initiative — emerging economies with growing middle classes such as China, Brazil and India is projected to grow by 135 per cent, 274 per cent and 50 per cent respectively by 2016 compared to 2010. So there`s an enormous opportunity there," Carney said.

Earlier in the day, Obama signed an executive order tasking the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to co-lead an inter agency task force to develop recommendations for national travel and tourism strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities.

He has tasked the Departments of State and Homeland Security with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 per cent in 2012, and ensuring that 80 per cent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.

According to the US Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in USD 134 billion in US exports in 2010 and is the nation`s largest service export industry, with seven per cent of total exports and 24 per cent of service exports.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job.

According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or "long-haul" travellers spend on an average USD 4,000 on each visit.

Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than USD 6,000 and USD 5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce.