The U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Strategy identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027.
However, international travel is still not expected to make a full recovery until 2025, making this goal challenging under ongoing obstacles.
Why it matters: Obstacles like outrageously long visitor visa wait times, limited air routes, aviation workforce and CBP staffing shortages, an antiquated air traffic control system and other hurdles for overseas visitors are delaying the recovery of international inbound travel and harming America’s economy and global competitiveness.
The problem: Wait times for visitor visa interviews exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from top source markets.
- Low prioritization of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing is keeping an estimated 6.6 million potential visitors from traveling to the United States in 2023 at a loss of $11.6 billion in projected spending.
The bottom line: International visitors are choosing other travel destinations, despite a strong desire to visit the United States.
- Of potential international travelers from three of our key markets requiring a visitor visa, 61% of Brazilians, 66% of Indians and 71% of Mexicans would likely choose another country to visit if visa wait times exceeded a year.
Though more must be done, there has been some recent progress and steps in the right direction.
- May 20-24, 2023 - U.S. Travel welcomed more than 5,000 delegates from 60+ countries to San Antonio, Texas for IPW––stimulating future inbound travel to the U.S.
- May 12, 2023 - The U.S. lifted the vaccination requirement for international inbound travelers.
- October 7, 2022 - Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House through H.R. 9141–the Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act.
- June 12, 2022 - Pre-departure testing requirement for inbound air travelers was lifted.
- March 10, 2022 – The passage of the FY22 omnibus provided $250 million in supplemental Brand USA funding, waiving the matching requirement for amounts provided above $50 million.
In December 2022, Congress passed the $1.7 trillion FY23 omnibus bill which included the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act, securing key provisions that will help restore international travel. These include:
- Establishing an Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism: Housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce, this presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate confirmed position will manage travel policy in the U.S., working to achieve annual goals to grow international travel, increase international business travel and develop a national travel and tourism strategy.
- Providing Congressional Oversight to Address Visa Wait Times: The bill directs the State Department to report to Congress on its efforts to address 400+ day visitor visa wait times and gives the department flexibility to allocate resources toward consular services.
- Increasing H-2B Visas: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security remains authorized to increase H-2B visas by exempting returning workers.