Friday, June 22, 2007

Visa restrictions overseas cause drop in US tourism

The Los Angeles Times today reported that the number of "overseas visitors to the U.S. has dropped 17% since its peak in 2000." In fact, this resulted to an estimated US$100 billion in lost visitor spending through 2005, it added.

Travel and tourism analysts are not surprised at this development. They have observed that the sharp drop in the number of foreign visitors coming to the U.S. may have been the result of visa restrictions imposed by the U.S. Embassies in the different parts of the world, especially in the developing countries.

But it doesn't mean that the U.S. Embassies abroad, especially those based in Asia, are not generating huge profits from the fees that tourist visa applicants pay, prior to the issuance of the said visas. And the painful truth is that these application fees are not refundable even if an applicant is denied of such visa. This means that huge fees from denied applications overseas continue to keep flowing, while the number of overseas visitors to the U.S. keeps shrinking, especially after the 9/11 incident.

It means that securing a tourist visa is a risk that any applicant has to take. That's why the decision rests on the applicant, if he is ready to part with his hard-earned money without any assurance at all if he can get a visa or not. Some analysts said that many of those whose applications were rejected by U.S. Embassies overseas had opted to visit other countries like New Zealand, Australia and Europe, instead.

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