US travel industry leader downplays the idea high prices are driving away international visitors

The U.S. travel industry is facing significant challenges in attracting international visitors, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association and Euromonitor International. The study highlights inefficient policies and friction points as the main causes for the country’s declining competitiveness in the global tourism market. Contrary to popular belief, high prices on airfare and hotel rates are not the primary deterrent for international visitors.

The study reveals that the United States is at risk of losing 39 million visitors over the next decade, resulting in a loss of $150 billion in spending power. The main factor contributing to this decline is the excessive wait times for visitor visas. The U.S. currently ranks 17th out of 18 top travel destinations in terms of overall global tourism competitiveness. Countries like the U.K., France, and Turkey have surpassed the U.S. in attracting international visitors.

Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, expressed concern over the country’s lagging competitiveness. He emphasized the economic cost of these failures, which amounts to billions of dollars. The association commissioned the report to understand the slow return of international travel to the U.S. following the end of pandemic-related restrictions. Despite being the most-desired destination for global travelers, the U.S. ranks third in terms of actual international visitor count.

The report identifies several areas where the U.S. is scoring low in terms of competitiveness. These include government leadership on travel-related issues, national travel strategy, safety and security, visa wait times, and visa waivers. The U.S. only grants visa-free travel privileges to 42 countries, compared to the U.K.’s 102 countries. Additionally, the U.S. lags behind in terms of biometric security screening capabilities, which can streamline air travel and make it more efficient.

The study does not attribute the decline in competitiveness to any particular political party but highlights the absence of a dedicated minister of tourism in the U.S. While the country receives praise for its destination marketing, air connectivity, and Trusted Traveler Programs, it falls short in key areas that impact international travel.

Interestingly, the study does not mention high prices on airfare and hotel rates as a deterrent for international visitors. It suggests that other factors, such as visa wait times and inefficient policies, have a more significant impact on visitor numbers. The U.S. Travel Association acknowledges that these issues have been prevalent for years and are not solely a consequence of the pandemic. The organization believes that while market forces will address pricing issues, the government must address the longer-term factors affecting international travel.

In conclusion, the U.S. travel industry faces significant challenges in attracting international visitors due to inefficient policies and friction points such as visa wait times and security screening technology. The high cost of airfare and hotel rates is not the primary deterrent. The U.S. must address these issues to regain its competitiveness in the global tourism market and prevent the loss of billions of dollars in revenue.

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