As we head into the holiday season, despite headwinds created by inflation and recession fears, there is some good news in terms of forecasted business levels for the lodging industry. According to numerous surveys, including one from Expedia and one from Destination Analysts, people are continuing to travel in force.
Additionally, in my role on the U.S. Travel Association board of directors, I attended meetings in Washington, DC earlier this month that were focused on a few key issues impacting travel into the U.S.
The biggest issue, which impacts travelers bound for our destination, as well as most destinations, is the Travel Visa program. While many countries have Visa-waiver programs, several critical counties for travel into the U.S. require Visas, including Mexico, India and Brazil. Complicating this issue further are the staggering wait times people from these countries endure for travel visas.
Below you will find a breakdown of how the Travel Visa program is impacting foreign travel from these destinations and actions that U.S. Travel is taking to remedy the issues.
Recently, this travel visa issue affected us here in Rancho Cordova. In October, a journalist from Food & Travel Mexico visited us, but the journalist’s photographer was unable to join her due to the long wait times for a travel visa. Locally, I am working with Congressmember Dr. Ami Bera’s office.
International Visitors from Non-Visa Waiver Countries are Critical to the U.S. Economy
- 43% of international visitation and $120 billion in spending (2019) came from countries where a visa is required to enter the United States.
- First-time visitor applicants (B-1/B-2) are facing sky-high interview wait times (400+ days on average) because they have been deprioritized by the State Department.
- 61% of Brazilians, 66% of Indians and 71% of Mexicans say they will avoid the United States if persistent wait times continue—costing nearly $12 billion in annual spending.
Concentrating Resources on Three Countries will Largely Address Today’s Visa Delays
- Top non-Visa Waiver Program markets of Brazil, Mexico and India face staggering wait times of 315 days, 615 days and 692 days, respectively. No one will wait one to two years to travel to the United States.
- Visitors from these countries account for 2/3 of visitors from non-VWP countries.
- These high-value markets have relatively low visa refusal rates and visitors from India and Brazil spend an average of $5,200 per trip—some of the world’s biggest spenders.
Biden Administration Can Take Concrete, Immediate Steps to Solve the Problem
- Set clear timelines and goals to restore efficient visa processing.
- Lower wait times for visitor visas to 21 days in Brazil, Mexico and India by April 2023.
- By September 30, 2023, the President should reinstate the Executive Order to process 80% of visas worldwide within 21 days.
- Increase staffing and resources in high-volume countries and for large international events hosted in the U.S.
- Surge consular officer staffing in Brazil, Mexico and India by assigning new-hires and reassigning staff with previous consular experience to these markets.
- Extend through 2024 the authority to waive interviews for nonimmigrant visa renewals and apply waivers more broadly to low-risk B-1/B-2 renewals.
- Create a dedicated process to provide faster visa processing for large tour groups, conventions and events taking place in the United States.
Particularly in the short-term, business levels are predicted to remain strong. Check out these recent reports from Expedia and Destination Analysts for the latest insights.
I hope you, your staff and family are making the most of this holiday season.
President/CEO Visit Rancho Cordova