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Monday, May 24, 2004

U.S. to World: Keep Out


An underappreciated way in which Bush is destroying our country is by driving foreigners away from our shores. This has received a fair amount of coverage in the British and French press, but very little here at home. One exception is this article from CBS, but like most U.S. press coverage I've seen it emphasizes the decline in foreign students rather than travel in general.

The British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reports

Strict new security and visa rules put in place since the September 11 attacks have triggered a 30 per cent drop in overseas visitors to the United States, the Bush administration has announced.

This has dealt a major blow to the tourist industry and US universities, among other sectors, said Colin Powell, the secretary of state.

Let's put aside the jobs and dollars that tourists bring in, which really aren't all that important. It doesn't take a genius to see that America's standing in the world greatly benefits when others travel here. Students study here, and some go home and lead their countries. People come here to to business and bring ideas and innovations. Scientists come here and share their knowledge. Tourists come and most probably go home with a better image of the U.S. So, this is one of Bush's disasters that really bums me out, and that I think could really do a lot of harm in the long run.

Now you can say that a lot of factors drive tourism, and that it's not all Bush's fault. And surely the fallout from 9/11 would have reduced travel no matter who was president. The world economy hasn't been that hot. But at the same time, some factors should have been increasing travel to the U.S., like the weak dollar. And there's the unprecedented size of the drop-off in visitors. Ultimately, I think a lot of fall-off is due to excessive visa requirements, excessive hassling at the border, excessive red tape and fingerprinting and photographing.

And then there's lawlessness of U.S. customs agents. Canada issued an advisory to their citizens of middle eastern descent a few years ago, advising them to avoid travel to the U.S. Why? Because of our record of deporting Canadian citizens to Syria to be tortured. That can't be good for tourism.


Percentage Change in Travel to the U.S., 2000-2003

Overseas -30.6
Europe -25.5
Asia -33.8
Middle East -36.3
Mexico -6.3
Canada -13.6

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce





The Unprecedented Fall in Travel to the U.S.
 
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