Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fewer tourists coming to the USA? Why?

Fewer tourists are coming to the USA... hmmmmm.... Why?
With 300 Million people inside the USA; a backlog of millions more all legally planning to go there and over 12 million "undocumented" or illegally residing in the USA. America has made restrictions at getting visas and travel to America a major reason why so much fewer international tourist prefer other destinations- and it is not only tourism -but trade and investments as well.
The Xenophobia and new rules after 9-11 have hurt the US economy and it is losing billions of dollars in tourism related visitors as well as investors who are going elsewhere rather than have to do all the paperwork to even get a simple US visa to visit or do business.

MSNBC reported in a article of the financial times - " US tourism industry leaders and top government officials on Tuesday urged collaboration between the public and private sectors to stem shrinking US market share of international visitors."-

Lets face it - if anyone has ever tried to do the paperwork and go and do the process in any embassy overseas one understands why the numbers have dropped. In an effort to put on greater security - there has come to fold a wall of sorts over many travelers.
While - "Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told travel industry leaders at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit held in Washington that government is attempting to balance strong security with welcoming foreign tourists." In the MSNBC Post.
I bet the secretary has never had to apply to for US tourist or Business visa and wait ten months to year just to get an interview. In the long run the "Home of the brave..." Seems no longer the apt Term - make it maybe?
"Home of the New Wall or a new Iron curtain of fear!"
It is red tape and bureaucracy that has caused this problem- the pile up of a paper work mess that makes many choose Europe or places like even Vietnam or china over the Californians and Vegas or sleepless seattles or wonderful Oregon coast or beauty of Maine or city that never sleeps New York.

When Paris, may be burning with riots- but much of the Riviera was fine... Montecarlo beaconed and Cannes called. Tourism was down- but people still came...

Italy is always a wonderful stop... Single market worked well too- one currency - one price throughout made Europeans stayed home this last few seasons.

Yes, the higher cost of air travel did kick in- but the bottom line was to much of the world the USA seemed a unwelcome destination with too many problems just to get papers done.

When one talks to US officials about this- the common reply is- the world changed after 9-11, yes indeed it did - the beacon of freedom, the land of liberty, the home of the free and brave- became scared xenophobic and fearful of anything from beyond its shores.

Yes- the common ground is one of the worst terrorist attacks happened and in one day the New York, America's city became a place of victims - throughout the land people have suffered from wide spread traumatic stress since then

But in context- many of the worlds cities have suffered in this war of terror - albeit similar in types of attack but not in terms of scale- but loss of life over years of terror attacks just as much as New York. Look at Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or London or Madrid - where terror has long been used to attempt to change society.

Aside from Al Qaeda - there is Etta in Spain- the IRA in the UK- the various factions from all over the middle east in Israel... Who have bombed and hijacked over the decades- yes 9-11 rudely awoke America to these dangers it faces in this world begin an open democratic society.

Here where I am in Asia from Southern Thailand to Indonesia to the Southern Philippines even here in Manila - terror has often been a weapon of choice for "militants or rebels of whatever's the cause" for years

But overall the people have not changed their attitude that life indeed must go on - and people need to make sure that a bunker mentality and xenophobia over things and people different does not set in. Otherwise those seeking to make the world a unsafe place win.

There is an old saying that prejudice often starts with ignorance and misunderstanding - greatly indeed the USA has championed the teaching of understanding and respect and upholding the freedom of people of all races creeds and social standing... Yet watching the attitudes raised in the face of massive protests - one can see a major reason for the problem.

Many commentators and news networks have wrongly labeled huge massive protests as "marches of illegals" but nothing could be farther from the truth - 80 per cent of the people in those protests are born and raised in the USA.

Another problem is demographic shifts in numbers- take Los Angeles for example - 40 per cent of its population is Hispanic- they are the majority- in many other cities those numbers are rising rapidly- why?

Simple Hispanics as well as Asians have larger families- and lower divorce and abortion rates- so in a few years you may see WASP or White America protesting for "minority rights"

Add also lower immigration numbers from Europe has meant new arrivals - considering under the law - new citizens are allowed to petition for relatives and those come into the country by law in a few years- the numbers will rise from those larger and more recent groups.

But of late it has become a place where the welcome has worn out for even visitors- one need only look at the streets and see- millions protesting draconian laws that could never be enforced. America does not have enough jail cells at present for criminals- if those laws are put into place- where will the USA house or how can they in government even think of putting millions into jail?

Any attempt to do so would seem like NAZI era crackdowns in Germany- I need say what the jails would resemble- lets face it- most people in the world would not accept that "solution".

There is a failure to understand by very parochial congressmen of both the republican and democratic parties that blocked major investments the US Economy needed from China and Bahrain because of ownership issues - even if 99 per cent of those employed would have been Americans- while at the same time using leverage to open foreign industries to US ownership in closed industries in those very nations. Easing trade and investment laws means both ways on two way street.

It's the 1970's fuel and industry crisis all over anew in some ways -sadly those in both houses of the US congress- mostly Euro-centered American business and government officials can't seem to grasp that the weight of the worlds trade is on another shore in the pacific- that the focus of trade and issues should be following the sun west.

It is also from here where most of the worlds tourists are coming from- millions of travelers from china would love to tour America - but present laws and restrictive polices make it almost unreasonable. Perhaps a route that could be followed is Singapore and Hong Kong- say for places like Hawaii and Guam- which need the tourism more than any other part of the USA.

make those places perhaps America's free trade ports of entry and travel- and watch those economies boom! Imagine a free trade hub in the center of the Pacific in Hawaii - or on Guam - all under a US flag with US laws in place.

On the Mainland- or Continental USA - Los Angeles to San Diego could be open for free trade zones- on the east coast- New jersey or Manhattan - imagine the impact of people freely moving and trading and living- fee based it could solve any problems of social security or tax revenue shortfalls.

But those proposals are unlikely to ever be considered- Instead America continues to look toward old oceans and routes and methods of trade that focus far too much within traditional lines of trade and history.

Sadly there will be less and less tourists and more and angst over travel- Collin Powell recently said the USA once the home of the worlds best and brightest on it's University campuses have sadly become devoid of many foreign students who are going else where taking the world free market of ideas with them to other shores in Australia and Europe- which is courting traders, tourists, travelers of all nations in high numbers- one of the highest enrollments for example for foreign minds has been - you guessed it - Bahrain China and yes Russia...

it is ironic that while America declines and thinks of building up walls - Russia which tore down its is become a option for trade, investment, and ideas for many this new world brave enough to open its doors and economies to the world.

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