所以，毫不为奇，2010年前往欧洲的中国人突破了350万，而去美国的中国游客却只有80万。根据美国商务部（the U.S. Department of Commerce）的统计，2000年美国在国际旅游市场的占有率为17%，而目前已下跌近一半，仅为12%。
America Would Benefit from an Open Door Policy
One of the most critical indicators of progress in the U.S. recovery from the global financial crisis is unemployment, and conversely, job creation. Unemployment and underemployment remain vexing issues and a major damper on recovery in consumer confidence and spending, so fixing these problems is a top priority.
It comes as no great surprise, then, that the U.S. government under President Obama’s leadership has focused on export promotion. They have championed a 5-year goal of doubling U.S. exports, and creating an estimated 2 million jobs in the process. These are very ambitious goals, albeit very worthwhile ones.
It is impossible to accurately predict the causal link between the growth of exports and the creation of new jobs, so whether a doubling of exports will actually result in the creation of 2 million new jobs on American soil remains to be seen.
Still, it remains a laudable and positive objective.
Meanwhile, there is another golden economic opportunity for the U.S. which has received little attention, with the exception of a handful of corporate leaders in the U.S. hotel and hospitality industry, who for the time being do not seem to have attracted much support in Washington.
Since 9/11, the process of obtaining a visa to visit the U.S. has become vastly more challenging and time-consuming, especially for nationals of China, Russia, India and Brazil. In the case of China, this unfortunately has coincided with a huge and fast growing surge of Chinese tourists “going global.”
As a result, Chinese tourists are largely giving the U.S. a miss, and I can’t blame them. It’s a lot easier to go to Europe, or a host of other destinations.
Writing in the June 13, 2011 issue of FORTUNE, Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, Bill Marriott, Jr. observed: “Since 9/11, visitors from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) must have an in-person interview at one of our overseas consulates to get a visa. In October 2010, the wait time for an interview and visa at one of our five consulates in China was 48 days; for Britain the wait time was 12 days, and it was even less for the big European countries.”
It’s not surprising, then, that in 2010, more than 3.5 million Chinese visited Europe, compared with only 800,000 who visited the U.S. In the year 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, America’s share of international tourism was 17%. By 2010, it had dropped by nearly half, to 12%.
Marriott goes on to say that, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, a 10% increase in tourist visitors would create 100,000 jobs. It also boosts retail and food and beverage spending, which has healthy knock-on effects for the U.S. economy.
By and large, this means generating new revenue without any new investment (ie the hotels and other facilities already have ample capacity to accommodate more visitors) or the time required to build new production facilities, as may be required to expand manufacturing capacity in support of export growth.
I know from conversations with the CEO of at least one other major U.S.-based international hotel group that Bill Marriott is not alone among hotel industry leaders in speaking out about this problem. Unfortunately, champions of the issue within the beltway in Washington have been slow to emerge.
The irony of this is that, as I described in my last series of posts regarding my first visit to China in 1975, nowadays it is almost as challenging for Chinese to visit America as it was for Americans to visit China in her pre-Open Door and Reform. era.
What’s wrong with this picture?!
Obviously, the profound impact on America of the 9/11 tragedy understandably required a complete overhaul of national security which impacted many aspects of life in America for Americans as well as would-be visitors.
Another important, complex and politically charged set of concerns within the U.S. relates to illegal immigration.
All of which is to say, there are plenty of challenges ahead on the road to revamping and streamlining policies and procedures concerning U.S. visitors’ visas.
Lest we forget, there were plenty of challenges and powerful opposition to China’s Open Door and Reform. Policy before it was promulgated at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s.
That’s what leadership and statesmanship are all about. Let’s hope that the U.S. can seize the opportunity, out of self-interest, to make it much easier for her to welcome legitimate visitors from China and around the world. It’s a win-win situation.