The U.S. government is taking steps to attract more foreign visitors, aimed at job creation in the country's travel and tourism industry, the White House said on Wednesday in a statement, citing a report from the departments of state and homeland security.
The report, which outlines measures already or being taken, came after President Barack Obama in January directed federal agencies to expand the nation's ability to attract foreign visitors while maintaining high standards of security, the statement noted.
According to the report, U.S. visa processing has been much improved in key markets. In China, consular officers are keeping interview wait times to an average of five days in 2012 while managing a year-on-year 37-percent increase in visa demand.
The United States has established a pilot program that allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa renewal applicants in 28 countries.
Meanwhile, the State Department is investing millions of dollars to upgrade and expand its existing consular facilities. For example, a new consulate building will be opened in Guangzhou, China in Fiscal Year 2013, says the report.
The U.S. government
is also building partnerships with Disney, American Express and other tourism industry stakeholders to attract international visitors, the report adds.
The travel and tourism industry is a substantial component of the U.S. GDP and employment, contributing 1.4 trillion dollars in economic activity and 7.5 million jobs according to 2011 figures.
It is projected that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the United States increases its share of the international travel market, noted the White House.
According to industry experts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or "long-haul" travelers spend on average 4,000 dollars per visit, which in turn supports and leads to additional travel and tourism-related jobs, the White House added.