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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications
518.465.7511

January 19, 2012

Statement from The Business Council on Growing New York's Travel and Tourism Industry

Help Create Tourism Jobs in New York
Ask The White House and Congress to Expedite Tourism Visas Now!

New York has everything that international tourists seek in a vacation: the majestic Niagara Falls, rolling hills surrounding the Finger Lakes, the historic Hudson Valley and the famous New York City skyline. Additionally, JFK and LaGuardia airports are major gateways to the international community and the rest of New York State. Too bad that even with a passport and money in their pockets, most of them will never make a trip.

In New York State the tourism industry is the fifth largest employer, supporting over 674,000 jobs. A Tourism Economics study shows that in 2010 the industry generated over $6.7 billion in federal tax revenue, over $6.4 billion in state and local tax revenue and over $49 billion in visitor spending at New York restaurants, hotels, theaters, vineyards and airports.

The Business Council believes that by taking a serious look at the process and regulations surrounding tourist visas, we could infuse millions of dollars into our economy and create thousands of new jobs for New Yorkers. In his State of the State address the Governor laid out many ideas to capitalize on resources New York State already has, as well as how to grow new destinations and bolster the Tourism Industry to benefit New Yorkers. He plans on building the largest convention center in the United States just outside of JFK and LaGuardia Airports; he wants to start the process to allow for casino gambling; and he wants the Empire State Development Corporation and the Port Authority to work together to put New York State on the forefront of the international community's mind.  

The total number of global travelers from 2000 to 2010 grew to over 60 million; according to the U.S. Travel Association, the nation's market share of global travelers shrunk from 17 percent in 2000 to 12.4 percent in 2010. A major hindrance is the drawn-out visa application process instituted under stringent Homeland Security policies adopted after 9/11. While every necessary precaution should be taken to protect our country from harm, we also believe that security measures can evolve so as not to unduly hinder travel and tourism.

The international tourism market — which is highly competitive — is underserved by the United States. Brazil, China and India all have rapidly growing economies and an increasing number of residents with the financial means to travel. They also experience some of the longest wait times for their tourist B-2 visas. A recent report by “ABC World News” noted that it takes, on average, over 145 days in Brazil from the time you apply to the time you can schedule an interview to determine your visa eligibility. The wait is over 120 days in China, where there are over 1.3 billion people and only five consul offices. The U.S., and in particular New York State, is missing a great opportunity.

Legislation introduced by Senator Schumer - the “VISIT USA Act” - would provide many of the necessary reforms to the visa process and encourage more global tourists to travel to the United States. President Obama wants to make the U.S. the top tourist destination in the world, which would generate much-needed revenue for state and local economies. The Business Council supports Schumer's bill and encourages action on it. New York's congressional delegation should get behind this legislation and take one more step to improving New York's economy.