Packetizer Logo

Obama Signs Travel Promotion Act Into Law

March 8, 2010

Recently, President Obama signed into a law a bill that would help encourage tourism to the US. Called the Travel Promotion Act, every visitor to the United States will be required to pay an entry fee.

That certainly does not sound like it would encourage tourism to the US. “Welcome to the US. Now, pay your fee.”

There is, of course, more to the bill than that. The bill is intended to create a marketing organization and a set of programs to help encourage visitors to come to the United States. This is all fine, but why do people not want to come to the United States, anyway?

Well, there are reasons. First, many visitors to the US must get a visa. There are certain countries where this is not required, but even in those cases, visitors are required to go online and complete some entry form, otherwise they will be denied entry.

All visitors are required to fill out far more paperwork than any other country in the world (the white I-94 or green I-94W form), staple crap into their passports, and are required to ensure that the departure document is properly returned before departure. Failure to do that might jeopardize the visitor’s ability to come to the US again, and will certainly increase the likelihood of having to get a visa the next time the visitor might wish to come to the US.

Upon arrival, US immigration officers will take the visitor’s mug shot and fingerprints, almost as if the person arriving is assumed to be a felon. Sure, all of this was done to “protect national security” after the attacks of 9/11, but does the leadership of the United States not understand how this makes a visitor feel?

Oh, and have you ever watched how our border agents (especially those running the scanners) treat visitors when they do not follow instructions? They are absolutely rude. It does not matter that the visitor cannot speak English. They don’t care. They’ll just yell at the visitor as if they’re a common criminal. I’ve seen it happen far too many times.

So, because we put up so many barriers to people who want to visit the United States, people do not come. And then we wonder why. So, we create a marketing organization and fund it to encourage visitors.

Do the folks in Washington not understand the root problem? I can hop on a plane and fly to Switzerland tomorrow. I’ll be greeted with a smile, not required to fill out any documents at all, and given no harassment whatsoever by the border agents. There is a difference and people feel it.

Lots of folks I work with in the ITU-T, which is a part of the United Nations, have explicitly asked me to not hold meetings inside the United States for all of these reasons -- and so I don’t. Perhaps one day our government will stop treating visitors so poorly.

Click here to view the main blog page.