Friday, January 20, 2012

Supporting Tourism to Create New Jobs

The US Government took several important steps this week with the goal of improving access to America's tourist sites.

Cuyahoga Valley (Photo by M. Webb)
The first was a practical measure. The Department of Transportation announced a grant of nearly $41 million to improve transportation to and within our nation's national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. The money will be used not only to improve access roads, but also to set up greener methods of transportation within the parks for visitors.

What does that mean? Well, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway was one of the 58 projects to receive funding. Some $3 million will go towards improving its infrastructure, an important goal as building ridership to the railway will significantly decrease the number of cars clogging the roads in this pristine wilderness area. New and greener busses are also planned for a number of areas, to replace individual cars, and shuttle visitors rapidly around parks.

For a complete list of the projects being supported, click here.

The bureaucratic hurdles to visiting the United States are also going to be addressed. Yesterday, President Obama, in a speech at DisneyWorld, announced that the US State Department would finally be tackling visa delays. Its a problem that has discouraged millions of would-be tourists and business travelers from entering the US ever since stricter measures were enacted after 9/11 in 2001.

The President promised that by the end of 2012, the State Department would accelerate visa processing by 40% in both China and Brazil, two of the fastest growing segments of the international travel market.

He also vowed to work with the State Department to expand the list of countries whose citizens require visas to visit the US, beyond the current 36 nations. That's a huge and important step, and could mean literally millions of new visitors to the US and thousands more tourism-based jobs for our citizens.

In addition, the Global Entry program will be made permanent and expanded. The program grants special status at customs to those who submit to an extensive background checks. They're able to breeze through the airport much faster than their neighbors. Its been an important tool for encouraging repeat visits to the United States.

We live in an era when any governmental "meddling" is seen as suspect, in some quarters. But I have no doubt that the President Obama and Secretary LaHood's pro-active measures will have wholly positive outcomes.

As President Obama said in his speech "“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try.”

Inspiring and true words.

1 comment:

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