President Obama on Thursday said his administration will launch a national initiative to attract more foreign travelers -- particularly from China, India and Brazil -- to help boost the tourism industry and create jobs. It was his latest executive action in his “We Can’t Wait” campaign to improve the economy.
“America is open for business,” Obama said from Disney World in Orlando, Fla. “We want to welcome you.”
Specifically, Obama directed the Departments of Homeland Security and State to increase the non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent this year, and to interview 80 percent of potential tourists within three weeks of their applications. He also proposed a pilot program to explore waiving interviews for low-risk travelers and adding Taiwan to the Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Taiwanese tourists to visit the United States without a visa for up to 90 days.
Obama said adding staff to consulates and speeding up the visa-application process will attract more tourists, but that it would not weaken national security.
“We can make sure we’re doing a good job keeping America secure while at the same time maintaining the openness that’s always been a hallmark of America,” he said.
The U.S. share of spending by international travelers dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the White House.
Obama also joked that going to Disney World was one of the few things he gets to do that would make his daughters jealous. He also said he was glad to see Mickey Mouse because “it is always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me.”