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President Obama calls for additional tourism to US in Disney World speech

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Published: January 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Hey, as a theme park fan, this sight is just cool, isn't it?

President Obama at Walt Disney World

President Obama visited the world's most popular theme park, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, to announce plans to encourage and facilitate more international tourism to the United States.

Requisite joke: "I'm excited to meet Mickey. It's always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me."

Obama's plan includes additional industry-funded marketing for U.S. destinations, including the Orlando theme parks, as well as expedited visa processing for visitors from China and Brazil. Obama also expressed a desire for Congress to add more countries to the list of nations whose visitors do not need visas to visit the United States, including Brazil.

Update: Legoland Florida wins the PR award for emailing the quickest response:

“This development is a major game-changer for Florida. An improved visa process helps us roll out the welcome mat to our friends in Brazil and will result in record numbers of young families visiting Florida.

Cost and convenience historically are two of the biggest barriers in travel. By addressing the hassle factor and making the visa process less onerous, we’ve just substantially improved our chance of attracting additional guests...

The fact that we’re already seeing large numbers from Latin America combined with today’s announcement is pushing us to seek out more Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking model citizens to better accommodate our guests from across this region.” - Adrian Jones, General Manager - LEGOLAND Florida

What's the PR equivalent of photobombing? :^) But Jones is right, making it easier for more people to visit Central Florida is nothing but good news for the area theme parks and the area economy. Get ready for more Brazilian tour groups*, everybody!

Update 2: *Or maybe not. See my point in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From steve lee on January 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM
As someone who visited a Florida theme park last week, I'm not so sure we need to make it easier for Brazil...
From Mike Gallagher on January 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM
I hate to admit this, but the "ears" joke made me smile. sorry, couldn't help it.
From Marc Benz on January 19, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Just wanted to add, as a citizen of Switzerland who doesn't need a visa to enter the US as a tourist (this is true for visitors from most European countries as well) I think the most exciting piece of information was that the Global Entry program will be expanded to additional countries (currently only open to US citizens, legal residents, Mexican, Canadian and Dutch citizens)

Unfortunately, he didn't say what the timeframe for this is.

From Anon Mouse on January 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I was reading an article in USA Today that Europe might be more affordable if the Euro currency collapses. I may be due a visit to Italy and Greece, barring any cruise ship accidents or public riots.
From on January 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Obama, I don't need another incentive to visit your country. I've already hopped across the pond 5 times in the last 2 years...
From Robert Niles on January 19, 2012 at 12:35 PM
The more I think about this, the more I'm coming around to thinking that these steps might reduce the number of Brazilian tour groups over the long term.

Hear me out: If we remove the visa requirement for Brazilian tourists, it's logical to assume that the number of visitors from Brazil to the US will increase. While that might lead to initial increase in the cost of visiting as more people try to get on the same number of flights, eventually, airlines will add more flights, more Brazilians will become familiar with the trip and learn how to find deals, etc., and the average cost of visiting the US will come down.

With increased trade between the US and Brazil as a result of the visa requirement going away, standards of living in Brazil might rise, accelerating the growth of its middle class. That, coupled with price decreases, would mean more people could afford to make the trip.

Third, without a visa requirement, getting to the US becomes as simple as booking a trip. No more bureaucratic hassles. That eliminates one of the huge reasons for booking through a tour group - you'll no longer need a pro to help you through the process.

Add it all up, and under this scenario, it's quite likely that more Brazilian families would have the means and the ability to visit the US as a family, instead of only sending the kids through a tour group. (The family could afford the extra tickets, and wouldn't need the assistance of tour operators to get visas and make arrangements.) So, in the long run, we could see more Brazilian teens visiting, but under the guidance of their parents, instead lumped in with dozens of other teens in barely supervised tour groups.

Just me supposing here, but the scenario makes sense to me. What do you think?

From steve lee on January 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM
That... actually makes a lot of sense, Robert.
From Joao Menezes on January 19, 2012 at 1:38 PM
Your logic is very sound. Because of the fear of possible immigrants, the visa requirement is much more a hindrance to younger adults and parents than to a teen.

From TH Creative on January 19, 2012 at 1:53 PM
Disney and other tourist industry companies have a powerful lobbying presence in Washington DC. If tourism related legislation were making its way through Congress and were going to be announced in such a public manner by the President of the United States, I am certain that the industry bean counters evaluated the economic short term and long term prospects.
From on January 19, 2012 at 2:08 PM
Hopefully the increase in brazilian tourists makes up for the other tourists that the increase in brazilians keeps away. Unless something in the park is changing to accommodate these greater numbers of guests, why would I be happy about this? And before you bring up the "parks make more money and can build new rides" i say they already so that now. And I understand it helps the country and economy, etc. But speaking not as a patriotic American, but as a tourist who's weighing my options, I'll take the shorter lines and ethnocentrism of hershey/Busch gardens/kings dominion.

Just my 2 cents. Written on my phone, please excuse any typos.

From Anon Mouse on January 19, 2012 at 2:24 PM
I happen to think you're looking at the tour group trend narrowly. Brazil might be sending mostly youth groups to WDW, but they could be catering to all age groups. The mix of tour groups versus individual vacations will change with the new visa requirements, but this depends on what they are seeing and whether they have the confidence to do their own vacations. Tour groups are favored for people who don't know the language and want to visit as many places as possible. I did a Europe tour where I visited 12 countries and 14 cities over a 3.5 week span, but this was a long time ago. The visa requirements were irrelevant to me taking the vacation. Tour groups are helpful if you want an inclusive vacation (most tickets, meals, shows, transportation, fees/taxes, and rooms are included).
From David Kirby on January 19, 2012 at 2:46 PM
I think you might be over thinking a bit on the tour groups. Higher standards of living or not, when traveling to a foreign country with an unknown language, people will feel much more comfortable being in a touring group with a guide. Even many Americans still travel abroad in touring groups.
From TH Creative on January 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM
From Daniel Etcheberry on January 19, 2012 at 7:49 PM
Obama's animatronic looks very real! Disney almost fooled me.
From Sylvain Comeau on January 21, 2012 at 3:29 AM
I've never heard of a U.S. president calling for more tourism.
From on January 21, 2012 at 6:10 PM
Too bad its easier to get into most countries that require a Visa than to the US without an official Visa requirement.
The entering process for non visa countries is basically a visa requirement these days. And then theres always the risk the border control doesnt like your face and interogates you for hours.
From Flavio de Souza on January 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Robert, just some remarks about your points:

Tour operators in Brazil don’t help in the process to obtain an US Visa. The US Consulate requires personal presence of each one, even if it is someone, like me, that have already been 40 times to USA.

Most people that choose to go with a group do that because they don’t speak English.

Up to middle 2013 there will not be a significant increase in Brazilian visitors because no more flights US-Brazil will be allowed. After that date, there will be a significant increase in the number of flights, a process that will end after 5 years when a free skies agreement will begin. Then, market, not government, will determine the amount of flights.

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