US seeks to ramp up international tourism hit hard by COVID

WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Commerce will unveil a new strategy on Monday to boost international tourism, hard hit by COVID-19 and government travel restrictions, by streamlining the entry process and promoting more diverse destinations.

The “National Travel and Tourism Strategy” set a target of attracting 90 million foreign visitors by 2027, spending about $279 billion annually, exceeding pre-pandemic levels, Reuters reported.

“There are many industries that have long survived COVID — travel and tourism — no,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in an interview.

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The federal government must do more to support the resurgence of travel and tourism to ensure the industry recovers to be “more resilient, resilient and fairer,” according to a draft strategy document seen by Reuters.

In 2019, 79.4 million people from other countries visited the United States, a figure that plummeted to 19.2 million in 2020 when the pandemic hit and rose to 22.1 million in 2021.

Foreign visitors spent $239.4 billion in 2019, but only $81 billion in 2019, according to the Commerce Department.

Before COVID, tourism provided 9.5 million U.S. jobs and $1.9 trillion in economic output.

One of the goals of the strategy is to modernize entry procedures for visitors who can enter and travel within the United States.

“We need to streamline the admissions process,” Raimondo said. “It’s cumbersome and very paper-based, and we want to move to a more digital process.”

Other goals include promoting a more diverse U.S. tourism experience beyond coastal states, reducing tourism’s contribution to climate change, and building a sector that is resilient to natural disasters, public health threats, and the effects of climate change.

One of the reasons tourism has fallen so sharply was that the United States has lagged behind many other countries in lifting COVID border restrictions that barred most of the world from entering. US rules were not relaxed until November 2021.

The United States still requires foreign citizens to be vaccinated against COVID, and almost all international air passengers must test negative before traveling. US airlines say that testing is not required in almost all other countries they serve.

Raimondo acknowledged that testing is a “barrier” to tourism and that the United States is an “outlier”, but did not predict when those rules might be relaxed.

“I have heard a lot about this from the industry and have spoken to the administration about it,” Raimondo said.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jamie Freed

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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