The US has stepped up its efforts to attract more foreign tourists, in particular those from countries like India, China and Brazil, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasising the need for hassle fee visa processing and entry programmes for tourists.
"We want to use our global reach and diplomatic tools to drive that economic growth here at home and to advance our strategic interests around the world," Clinton told a meeting of strategic dialogue on travel and tourism.
Encouraging travel and tourism moves us toward these goals. A average tourist from overseas spends $4,000 in the United States. In July of this year, foreign tourists spent nearly $14 billion here," she said, adding that for every 65 international visitors, one American job is created.
"In the last year, visitors from just China and Brazil supported more than 40,000 American jobs. And the number of tourists bound for the United States is growing all the time. So, in addition to trying to ease the way for Americans to travel, we have matched that commitment with trying to ease the way for foreigners to travel here," Clinton said.
The United States, she said, is making it easier for tourists to get here.
"We have expedited visa processing times at our posts around the world – like in Sao Paulo in Brazil, it once took 140 days to get a visa, now it takes under 48 hours; or in China, where the average wait time is five days, even though visa applications are up nearly 40%; and in Mexico, where we issued more than two million visas and border crossing cards this year alone," she said, but noted that in doing so there is no compromise with the security of the country.
In India, the United States has not only increased the strength of its staff, but also taken several other steps to reduce the visa interview waiting period.
It also introduced interview waiver program for certain categories of applicants.
"Just last week, we implemented the Global Support Services Contract," James W Herman, Executive Director in the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, told PTI in an interview, explaining that the application process that used to take up to 72 hours can now be completed in 20 minutes.
This service, which has been opened at five centers in India, would be expanded to other cities at a later stage, he added.
The US is planning for a tourist growth rate of 15% per annum.