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US Ranked 17th of 18 Countries on Tourism Competitiveness
15 January 2024
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Long visa wait times and other government inefficiencies blamed

US Ranked 17th of 18 Countries on Tourism Competitiveness

New research by Euromonitor International for the U S Travel Association finds that the US ranks 17th of 18 major global tourism destination countries on competitiveness, primarily because of long visa wait times and other governmental inefficiencies.

Root causes identified include, on the part of Federal policymakers:

  • Decades of underinvestment
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of coordination

In 2023, the US:

  • Fell to #3 in total visitor numbers, behind Spain and France
  • Saw only 84% recovery to 2019 levels - less than that of competitors
  • Had a global market share of long-haul travel of 5.3%, down from 5.4% in 2019

Competitiveness scoring was based on:

  • National Leadership (25%) - in which the US - with no sitting high-level government travel/tourism czar - ranked last
  • Brand and Product (20%) - in which US ranking suffered because of prevalence of violence and crime
  • Identity, Security and Facilitation (35%) - in which US ranked last because of average visa wait times approaching 400 days, permitting visa-free travel from relatively few countries (e.g., 42 vs. UK's 102), underutilization of biomeric security screening (used at only 36 international airports), and lengthy customs wait times
  • Travel and Connectivity (20%) on which the US ranks at the top because it serves as a major world hub for direct and connecting flights

The U S Travel Association has launched a Seamless and Secure Travel Commission initiative, to be comprised of "former government officials and private sector experts", with the objective of "creating a vision and making policy recommendations to modernize the travel experience, increase US competitiveness and facilitate growth." The Commission is due to present policy recommendations in the fall of 2024.

Comment: I'm not optimistic about the chances of major changes coming about through the efforts of USTA's Commission in time to save 2024 international tourism. The US Government has its hands full right now with a Presidential election, wars in Ukraine and Palestine, widespread racial strife, and an immigration crisis at the southern border. Plus 2024 visitation to the U S from 2019 global #1 source market China will likely be low because the Chinese people hear daily via their national media about crime, violence and racism in the US. Sorry, but I believe we're going to have to rely on domestic tourism again in 2024. Adjust your marketing accordingly.

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