Despite the weak U.S. dollar, a boom in international travel around the world hasn't translated into an explosion of foreign tourists to...
LAS VEGAS — Despite the weak U.S. dollar, a boom in international travel around the world hasn’t translated into an explosion of foreign tourists to the United States.
Explanations range from post-9/11 security headaches and lower airfares elsewhere to poor marketing by the U.S. Whatever the cause, travel-industry experts say the U.S. is missing an opportunity to make up for the shortfall in domestic tourism caused by high fuel prices.
At Heli USA Airways, one of several operators that whisk visitors on aerial tours of the Las Vegas Strip and nearby Grand Canyon, vice president of marketing and sales John Power said the faltering U.S. economy and competition from other countries are crimping business.
“Right now, there’s some other worldwide destinations that are taking some of the marketplace,” said Power.
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According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, the United States had 51 million international visitors in 2000, more than 7 percent of the 682 million international arrivals worldwide.
But as international arrivals worldwide jumped to 846 million in 2006, the U.S. saw roughly the same number of visitors as it used to — dropping its share to 6 percent.
Major destinations such as Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Miami, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston all saw 20 to 34 percent fewer travelers in 2006 compared with 2000.
Nearly 26 million people traveled to the United States from overseas in 2000. But that dropped drastically after 9/11, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.
The figures do not include visitors from Canada and Mexico, whose numbers are up substantially from 2000 but who tend to spend less than other international travelers to the U.S.
Part of the problem is the perception of frosty U.S. attitudes toward foreigners, starting at customs, said Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association.
That and other factors make it difficult to attract more overseas travelers.
The U.S. should decode its complex entry rules and boost staffing at customs checkpoints, Dow and others said.
“The perception is in spades that we’re less-welcoming” than other countries, he said.
Frequent U.S. visitor George Somerville, of Glasgow, Scotland, said international flights are generally cheaper to places other than the United States.
Somerville, 40, called customs here a “daunting prospect” that requires fingerprints and retinal scans.