Leaders in the US Travel Industry Want More Government Help

The US Travel Association held its annual IPW event in Los Angeles from May 3rd to the 7th. At the Los Angeles Convention Center, many industry leaders spoke about the outlook for the US travel industry in the coming years. The general consensus is that the US travel industry is being handed the opportunity of a lifetime. In the next few years, the country will host both the World Cup and the Olympics. These two premier sporting events will serve as the perfect showcase for the country.

President and CEO of the Traveler’s Association Geoff Freeman mentioned,

“It should be our national goal to be nothing short of number one in terms of visitor arrivals, visitor spend, and visitor experience.”

Just how far off is the United States from being the most visited country on earth? According to recent data released by the UN World Tourism Organization, the US ranks third on the list of most visited countries. In 2023, 51 million foreign visitors came to the US on vacation. That’s 130% more people than in the pre-COVID era. The second country on the list was Spain, which took in 71 million visitors, while France took the top spot. Around 80 million people visited France in 2023. With the Olympics this year in Paris, it’s hard to be against the French topping the list again in 2024.

President Freeman was very clear on the demands of the association to the US government to help make that goal of being the most visited country a reality. In what was essentially the keynote address of the IPW, he would go on to say,

“Our ambitions are constrained by excessively long wait times for visitor visas, often-lengthy waits at customs, and an air traffic control system that is challenged to meet demand. Achieving travel growth will require a sustained focus by government and industry to address frictions and improve the process for travelers.”

The federal government recently vowed to invest in the Foreign Service office to improve Visa wait times. This problem increased during the pandemic when US embassies abroad remained closed for an extended period. The hope is that the US will be able to get ahead of this issue before an influx of applications swamps the embassies with the number of people who will likely want to travel to the US for the 2026 World Cup.

Another issue that’s certainly keeping the US from taking in more travelers is the price of a tourist Visa. Currently, a US Visa costs $127, the most of any tourist Visa that travelers can apply for worldwide. That’s, of course, on top of the requirements that each traveler needs to meet to ensure they qualify. The only silver lining here is that the document is valid for ten years. A tourist Visa in New Zealand, for example, costs a bit over $100, but it’s only valid for 18 months. There are currently 41 countries in the Visa Exempt Program in the US. These are mostly European countries and principalities, as well as the most important economic US allies in Asia. Chile is the only South American country currently on the list and joins Canada as the only other nation within the Americas whose nationals can legally enter the US without a Visa.

Mario Perez

Author: Mario Perez


Mario is a seasoned journalist who’s worked with multiple publications over the years. He has a passion for looking for that story within the story itself. When he’s not actively looking for breaking news, he enjoys playing and watching sports.

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