D.C. is abuzz with talk of tax reform as Congress homes in on a final plan they hope to submit to the White House this week. Opinions are split on the current proposal, but most agree there is a need to spur economic growth and create more American jobs.
One key, and non-partisan, industry that has successfully stimulated the economy? Travel—particularly international inbound visitation to the United States. In 2016, 75.6 million international travelers visited the U.S. Overall travel spending directly supporting 1.2 million American jobs and $32.4 billion in wages last year.
But late last month, we heard some troubling news. According to data released by the Commerce Department, international visitation declined by four percent in the first six months of 2017. That decline could mean loss of jobs and exports, and threatens to harm the U.S. economy in the long run.
This decline can be attributed in part to new travel restrictions, confusion about security policies and the changing political environment. These factors created a growing perception abroad that the U.S. is no longer as welcoming to international visitors. The decline is alarming, but the solution may be simple: we need to create an environment that is both secure and welcoming. America is, and has always been, a welcoming country and our travel systems must be secure. We can do both.
To remain competitive and ensure that the U.S. continues to grow as a top travel destination, we need to remind our international allies that we’re open for business. The Visa Waiver Program and Global Entry are great examples of ways the country already promotes secure travel while welcoming international visitors.
We often expect that spurring economic growth will be a big lift, but the solution doesn’t need to be complicated. When the American economy and jobs are at stake, it’s clear that it’s time to add a welcome message that’s just as strong as our security message.