The Obama administration’s proposal to promote international tourism to the United States by easing access of visas for citizens of Brazil, China and India opens up the possibility of new revenues for Los Angeles and all of California.
Tourism is the major employer in Los Angeles County with close to 440,000 jobs in 2010. More than 25 million tourists visit the county every year and SPENT close to $14 billion on goods and services, an increase of 13% over the previous year.
At the state level, the travel industry supports 873,000 job and brings in almost $30 billion. More than half a million of these jobs are in the hotel and restaurant industry. In 2010, this sector paid $2.1 billion in local taxes and $4 billion in state taxes.
From this perspective, to increase tourism from China or elsewhere is very attractive given that in 2010 those tourists spent $270 million in Los Angeles alone. Our city is well positioned to navigate this growth with a tourism office opened in Bejing in 2006 by Mayor Villaraigosa.
There are those of course who fear that the new policy toward visas is too lenient and a threat to national security and they believe it will increase illegal immigration. We believe it is time to continue to open the doors of our country that were closed in the backlash to the 9/11 attacks. The federal program already authorizes citizens of 36 countries to visit the United States without visas. Adding Brazil, China and India to the list certainly doesn’t increase the danger.
The White House is also hoping that 80% of those who seek non-immigrant visas are interviewed within three weeks of their petition. To achieve this goal, it will be necessary to add staff to process visas. it will be difficult to secure Congressional approval for this expense during this election year.
International visitors to the United States generated $134 billion in revenue in 2010. Jobs generated by the tourist industry are typically locally based and cannot be outsourced abroad. The president’s initiative to increase visitors to our shores should be supported by everyone.