USTA Uses July Visitor Growth to Pressure Passage of Visa Reforms
The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) seized on Commerce Department reports showing travel exports were $13.7 billion in July, to pressure the government to enact legislation that is favorable to encouraging visitation to the U.S., including the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. According to David Huether, senior vice president of economics and research at the USTA, “The Commerce Department reported today that overall U.S. exports of goods and services fell by $1.9 billion in July while imports fell a similar $1.8 billion, resulting in a slightly higher monthly trade deficit of $42 billion. Offsetting some of the declines in other areas, travel exports edged up in July by $30 million to a level of $13.7 billion. While the July increase in travel exports was not as large as the $130 million increase in June, the travel industry continues to make positive headway in export growth this year. Through the first seven months of the year, travel exports have risen by 9 percent compared to the first seven months of 2011, much faster than the 5.3 percent rise in other exports of goods and services.
“As a result of faster export growth, the travel industry has been responsible for 12 percent of our economy’s overall export gain so far in 2012 compared to 2011 — close to double the travel industry’s contribution to export growth this time last year. Bucking the overall trend of a widening trade deficit that expanded to -$329.7 billion through the first seven months of this year, the travel industry’s trade surplus expanded five of the seven months so far in 2012 to $3.8 billion in July, the largest travel trade surplus since last October.”
The JOLT Act imposes a time limit for processing all non-immigrant visas. The legislation would require scheduling of the visa interview, the key element of the process, within 15 days; a year later, the bill would require an interview to be held within 10 days. The USTA is also urging an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP countries are the largest source of inbound travel to the U.S. In 2011, more than 18 million visitors to the U.S. — nearly two-thirds of all overseas visitors — arrived through the VWP. While here, USTA points out, they spent $69 billion, supported 525,000 American jobs, and generated $13 billion in payroll and $11 billion in government tax revenues.
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