We have long extolled the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and Global Entry—both of which make travel to the United States simultaneously more efficient and more secure—as shining examples of innovative, successful policymaking.

There are currently several countries on the path toward VWP and Global Entry membership—one of which is Israel. Israel is a key economic and security ally of the U.S., and that bond can be strengthened even further through its admittance to the VWP and Global Entry.

A win-win for security
As a strategic ally in a key region, extending to Israel the security benefits provided by the VWP and Global Entry can help further strengthen cooperation between our two countries. Participating nations in the VWP are required to share information with the U.S. about known criminals or persons of interest, and must enter all missing or stolen passports in the INTERPOL stolen and lost document database—making it much more difficult for criminals to travel. Additionally, the rigorous pre-vetting and expedited screening process of Global Entry passengers allows Customs and Border Protection to focus its resources on other unknown risks. These stringent measures not only make travel to the U.S. more secure, but also elevate Israel’s own security vetting systems. As a result, the two countries—and the world—would arguably be safer thanks to the VWP and Global Entry.

Economic partnership with limitless potential
The U.S. has historically been a top travel destination outside of nearby Europe for Israelis, but inbound travel from that market has been static in recent years. Israelis want to travel to the U.S., but it is simply much easier to travel to other places—like the European Union, for example, which does not require Israelis to obtain a visa— with whom the U.S. directly competes for tourism dollars.

Israel is currently the 21st-largest overseas inbound market to the U.S., but considering the close ties between the two countries, visitation and traveler spending has the potential to soar if Israel is admitted to the VWP and Global Entry program. In 2017, nearly half a million Israeli visitors to the U.S. spent $1.1 billion, with the average visitor spending $3,618 per trip. If admitted to the VWP, the U.S. could see an additional 143,078 Israeli arrivals over the next three years, as well as $444 million more in visitor spending. The addition later this spring of a direct route between Washington Dulles International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport—the first direct route between the two cities—can also help unlock this untapped market’s potential.

The U.S. and Israel already share a close bond, and admission to the VWP and Global Entry will undoubtedly strengthen that connection and have an outsized effect on Israeli visitation to the U.S. America should—and can —be the most secure and welcoming nation in the world. Bringing our key strategic allies into the VWP and Global Entry is a great place to start.  

In This The Itinerary
Tori Emerson Barnes is Executive Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy, at the U.S. Travel Association, the leading voice for all segments of the U.S. travel and tourism industry. Barnes directs the association's public affairs and external... View Profile ›

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