U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Congress and the country to back his new initiative to boost tourism, which he says will create jobs.
During his weekly address Saturday, Obama said he wants to make it easier for visitors to come and spend money in America. He presented the same theme a day earlier in Florida.
World travelers complain that with increased security after the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, entering the United States has become more difficult, unpleasant and time-consuming.
Many of those frustrated tourists stopped coming. White House officials say the U.S. share of the global travel market fell by more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2010.
To reverse that trend, the president is expanding the Global Entry Program, which he said protects America’s borders and makes life easier for frequent visitors who qualify.
“Instead of going through long lines at immigration, we can scan your passport, your fingerprints, and you are on your way,” said Obama.
Tourism is big business in the United States. The president said that in 2010, 60 million people visited America and spent $134 billion.
Obama is calling on his secretaries of Commerce and Interior to develop a strategy to market U.S. tourist destinations overseas and increase those numbers.
“So that is what this is all about – telling the world that America is open for business, making it as safe and as simple as possible to visit, helping our businesses all across the country grow and create jobs,” said the president.
The administration estimates that 1.2 million U.S. jobs are generated by international tourism. Industry officials say increasing America’s share of the global tourism business could create another million jobs in 10 years.
Obama says much of that growth could come from just a few countries.
“Countries with rapidly growing economies, huge populations and emerging middle classes. Countries like China and India. And especially important here in Florida, Brazil,” he said at DisneyWorld.
The president has ordered the number of U.S. tourist visas processed in China and Brazil increased by 40 percent this year. And worldwide, he wants applicants for tourist visas interviewed sooner.
Obama’s appearance at Disney World promoted his main campaign message of creating middle-class jobs. Florida, the fourth most populous U.S. state, holds its Republican Party presidential primary on Jan. 31. It is expected to be one of the main battleground states in the November general elections.