Embracing 21st-century international tourism in Michigan: Part 2
Getting through Road Blocks and Getting Permission to Enter an International Destination.
International traveling has gradually risen over the years for a number of reasons, but hindrances such as costs, distance, ability and permission to travel can get in the way of taking that dream vacation. One of the major challenges though to international travel much before anything else is acquiring the proper travel visa or, simply put, permission to enter. As a follow up to Part 1 of this article, published by Michigan State University Extension, this next addition focuses on the challenges of international tourism and a road blocks to Michigan becoming a greater international destination.
Generally speaking, U.S. citizens are free to roam where they wish internationally. There are restrictions of course, but as long as one applies for the appropriate visa(s) ahead of time, we are generally granted access into just about anywhere and usually rather quickly. However, for citizens of the world interested in touring our country, the ability to do so isn’t all that easy except for a couple-dozen countries. At present, there are 37 countries that participate in a U.S. Government program called the Visa-Waiver-Program (VWP). This program allows citizens of VWP countries to enter the United States on arrival without any prior approval; countries outside of VWP are required to undergo an extensive application and interview process. Travel related to tourism and/or business is allowed for VWP guests, but the number of days in the USA are restricted to 90 or less. According to the U.S. Travel Association, a national organization that advocates increase travel to the U.S, more than 16 million visits were generated in 2008 to which nearly $51 billion was spent by visitors of the VWP. Spending from VWP visitors help generate nearly a half million jobs (U.S. Travel Association).
International guests want to visit countries where travel visas do not impede their dream vacation or travel plans. Long waiting periods and a high risk of being denied can deter visitors from even wanting to attempt the arduous visa application process, and, therefore, tourists who could spend their time and money here end up doing so in countries more accepting of their temporary visit.
Michigan is targeting international tourists to help sustain and grow the Great Lake State’s tourism industry, but can it do so on attracting guests from only 37 countries? Certainly visitors of the other 150+ countries would benefit the State’s tourism economy if accessibility was granted or less stringent. Overtime, Michigan’s tourism industry will be transforming to a more culturally diverse industry, but just how much if guests are “cherry picked” based on their nation’s GDP or spending power? With tourism being the largest global industry it is subjected to ripples and tears in a global economy much like everything else global. Michigan’s tourism industry, traditionally sustained by our blue collar workforce, is undergoing transitions and redefining the target customer(s) to include international guests with considerable spending ability. For example, recently, Governor Snyder extended a warm welcome to the Chinese for tourism and investment, a nation not yet on the VWP list! In effort to make travel to the USA easier for Chinese travel visas are processed quicker than other countries outside VWP, according to George Zimmerman, Vice-President of Travel Michigan, at this year’s National Extension Tourism conference. Michigan’s tourism industry can help strengthen tourism by advocating less restrictions on tourists outside VWP (or adding additional countries to the list) wishing to visit the United States as well. The U.S. Travel Association states, “The Visa Waiver Program is critical to increasing foreign travel to the United States and helping our economy…” This is clearly a step forward for national tourism overall.
Other articles in this series: