Delivering jobs with international tourism
People visit the new American Wing for paintings, sculpture and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 2, 2012 in New York City. (Getty Images)
February 7th, 2012
04:30 PM ET

Delivering jobs with international tourism

Editor's Note: Thomas R. Nides is U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Nides.

By Thomas R. Nides - Special to CNN

Here’s a simple equation that will help the economy:  Bringing more international visitors to America equals new jobs here at home.  The United States is the world’s top tourist destination, but our share of that market has dropped since September 11, 2001.

International travelers added $134 billion in exports to our economy in 2010, and we know there is appetite for much more.  The Department of Commerce estimates that every 65 additional international visitors to the United States generate enough export revenue to support one new travel and tourism-related job.   

The good news is that more and more international tourists want to travel to the United States for holidays, family vacations, and shopping sprees.  President Obama and the State Department are making it a lot easier for them to do so.

To come to the United States, tourists from many countries need visas.  Often this requires a face-to-face interview with one of our consular officers.  Now, the President’s Executive Order will allow our consular officers to waive the interview requirement on a case-by-case basis for many repeat travelers, a group which has already spent billions of dollars in the United States.  This will make it easier for many qualified returning visitors to renew their visas, so they can come back and stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, buy American products, and enjoy all that America has to offer again.

And as a result, more than one hundred thousand interview appointments will be freed up this year for new visitors to apply for their first visas.

Improving this process is a critical step forward.  Increasing international tourism, particularly from countries with fast-growing economies, creates American jobs. The demand for visas has risen dramatically in recent years.  Because of these two factors, Secretary Clinton has made it a priority to increase the State Department’s capacity to issue visas while maintaining our strict security standards.  Through common sense actions such as extending interview hours, adding Saturday appointments, hiring additional staff, and opening new facilities, we have reduced visa wait times in countries around the world.

Let’s look specifically at China and Brazil, the second- and sixth-largest economies in the world, respectively.  Both have mobile and growing middle classes eager to purchase goods in the United States.  Last year, reporters found Brazilians prowling for Black Friday bargains in New York City, buying condos in Miami, outlet shopping in New Jersey, and hitting the slopes in Vermont.  More than 1.2 million Brazilians visited the United States in 2010, and each of them spent an average of $4,940 while they were here.  Those numbers are only rising.

Similarly, the number of visitors from China to the United States has quadrupled since 2003, adding more than $5 billion to our economy in 2010 alone.  Overall tourism rates from China are not yet as large as from Brazil, but their individual average spending in the United States is even higher – more than $6,000 per person.  With this flood of new tourists ready to inject money into our economy, our challenge is not just to keep up but to stay ahead of the curve.

Since summer 2011, we have reduced wait times for Brazilian applicants from well over 100 days to 40 in Brazil, and from an average of 45 days to 11 in China.  Coupled with the rising demand for visas in these countries, these improvements helped us issue  almost 176,000  more visas in Brazil and China during the first quarter of 2012 than we did during the same period in 2011.  That represents hundreds of millions of new dollars for our economy.  Today, in all of our 222 visa-processing posts around the world, 70 percent of our applicants get an appointment in less than three weeks.

Now, more than ever, delivering economic renewal at home is a top priority for our diplomats around the world.  Whether it means promoting new markets for U.S. firms or better positioning them to compete for international contracts, through Secretary Clinton’s economic statecraft agenda, we’re ensuring American businesses continue to keep their global edge.  Central to that effort is a clear and forceful message to the world America welcomes you, and welcomes the jobs you will bring to the American people.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Thomas R. Nides.

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Rz

    Hotels, resorts, beaches, culture, dining, site seeing, and lots of youngsters running around with plenty to drink! Wait a minute.....where's Senor Frog's?

    February 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt tourism brings national revenues. The interest of foreigners in realty in the U.S. helps boost the housing market. It has also unpleasant side-effects too. That Brazilians and Chinese buy properties in America is a sign that they lack confidence in their own countries.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:25 am | Reply
  3. Brazil123

    "Wait times for Brazilian applicants from well over 100 days to 40 in Brazil, and from an average of 45 days to 11 in China"... That´s impressive. To the American authorities, if you are in Latin America, you
    1) Speak spanish
    2) You are miserable
    3) You are criminal
    4) You are ignorant
    5) You are communist
    6) You want to rob the american jobs.

    It´s incredible how foolish sterotypes condem a continent to this kind of treatment. The solution is only one: education (for the american authorities).

    February 8, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    The European Union also wants to profit from the spending spree of the Chinese and Indian tourists and facilitates the visa policy for citizens from the two countries. .

    February 8, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  5. pmcdonald

    "The United States is the world’s top tourist destination, but our share of that market has dropped since September 11, 2001" But France had 75M tourism arrivals last year and the USA had 55M (source UNWTO). How is the US the worlds top tourist destination?

    "The good news is that more and more international tourists want to travel to the United States for holidays, family vacations, and shopping sprees" But tourism is growing faster in the rest of the world. Notably in China and Europe.

    The article is correct in pointing out that it is because America is a "security state" it will struggle to come high on the list of places people want to go. Too much of a pain in the ass!!! Why spoil your holiday by going somewhere so authoritarian. Better go to China where the authorities ease the passage of tourists and treat them with respect and a high level of service quality. Yes really!!

    February 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  6. Filippomagistro

    Only America does not have a National Tourist Office. Just about every country in the world has one. We almost do not like visitors. We make it difficult for them to come and try to through immigration. I have been more welcomed in China as a tourist than coming back to my home. Check out the confusion at JFK airport and how disorganized is. Most countries in Europe do not charge for a cart to carry your luggage. Here it costs about $ 5.00. Lufthansa in Germany offers newspapers and drinks to its passengers by the departure gate. Dream to have such service in the USA by the Us carriers . We have a long long way to go. In the meantime we are losing billion in income from incoming tourism.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:31 am | Reply

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