Travel is booming worldwide -- except in the United States. . . .
Overseas arrivals to the U.S. have declined 11% this decade, to 23 million in 2007 from 26 million in 2000. Travel is the world's largest industry, currently worth $5 trillion, and it is growing 6% a year. It employs almost a quarter of a billion people. And yet the U.S. is missing out on this wonderful human commerce. . .
Why? American arrogance. The United States is a crass, greedy and rude host.
To start, we treat foreigners as criminals until proved otherwise.
These are the 29 countries whose citizens may visit the U.S. without a visa: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain. It's a near lily-white list. The rest of the world's people -- all 5 multicolored billion of them -- are suspect. And overseas, they know the U.S. thinks that.*
Canada, by comparison, accepts nonvisa visits from citizens of more than 50 countries. The European Union exempts all EU-member nations, plus another 43 countries, including South Korea, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. So it's easier for a Mexican citizen to visit Europe than the United States.
. . . For those still determined to visit the U.S., the visa process involves going in person to a U.S. Embassy or consulate for an interview. And as the woman in Belize learned, there are no refunds if your visa application is rejected. Why are people turned away? Scruffiness, unsuitability, past contributions to Greenpeace or general ickiness. Read the State Department guidelines -- visitors must satisfy consular officers that they deserve to enter. But consular officials do not have to explain reasons for rejection, and they don't.
That's an excerpt from a important article about US tourism by Eric Lucas. It appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 19. I post this now, having just spoken to friend from Austria who is just recovering from a three-week depression brought on by his abusive treatment by the US Customs on a recent visit to the United States. I previously blogged about the horror-story that was one young Icelandic woman's trip to the US. (In both cases, the abused visitor was from a visa-exempt country). People all around the world have stories like these to tell.
* In March the US government added Estonia to the list.