Four steps the U.S. could take right away to earn more money from tourism
Disney posted an impressive earning report this week, driven in part by strong tourism at its theme parks in Anaheim and Tokyo. Walt Disney World didn't fare as well, but Disney made a point of talking about factors affecting international tourism in its report.
Having just returned from Europe, and traveled to Asia late last year, I've seen how other countries often welcome international visitors… and their money. It's a smart move. Money from international tourists is bonus cash for an economy - money from people who don't stick around long, consuming many public services. And international tourists are great for theme park fans. Their money helps theme parks justify building expensive new attractions that Americans can enjoy, too. But the United States, somewhat isolated internationally due to geography, hasn't always embraced tourist-friendly policies.
Millions of honest, peaceful people around the world want to visit America, and spend their money here. We ought to make it easier for those would-be tourists to do that. Here are four steps that America can take immediately (or is already in the process of taking) that can help bring more visitors to the United States, including to our theme parks:
All aboard to America!
1. Reduce visa requirements for visitors
In a conference call with analysts this week, Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said "the only thing we're held back by from South America is actually, believe it or not, our visa policy and the ability for people to get access to the market." Earlier this year, President Barack Obama asked Congress to expand the list of countries whose citizens don't need a visa to enter the United States for a short visit. Yet Congress hasn't acted, using security concerns as an excuse. (It's not like being from a non-visa country exempts you from TSA checks when you fly to and enter America.) If potential visitors didn't have to go through the hassle of going to a U.S. Consulate, filing out extra paperwork and paying an extra fee, it's logical that more visitors would consider a U.S. visit. And since visa requirements are also always reciprocal, reducing the visa requirements on incoming visitors would mean fewer visa hurdles for US citizens traveling abroad, too.
2. Expand Open Skies deals
The United States has agreed to an "Open Skies" deal with Brazil, but it won't be in effect fully until 2015. Open Skies agreements reduce government restrictions on international flights, allowing the airlines to decide how many flights to schedule on specific routes. Of course, governments never want to act unilaterally - so the Open Skies framework creates a blueprint for governments to get together and open up more routes between their countries. More air routes = more revenue for airlines, on lower airfares for tourists, and more visitors for our country.
3. Post more multilingual signs in tourist areas
English is the international language of aviation, and even in Japan and France, many signs include English, often as the primary language in the Disney theme parks. But millions of visitors to America don't speak English, and millions more potential visitors stay home because they don't speak the language.
I don't care what you think about people who don't speak English, but the money tourists spend in America is more money for all of America. "English-only" laws that prohibit governments from spending money to include Spanish and other languages on highway signs and other facilities in tourist areas are costing all of us money by making America a more hostile place for certain visitors. Instead of prohibiting multilingual signs, government agencies and tourist-friendly businesses ought to be looking for more opportunities to post signs that include Spanish, German, French or other languages in addition to English. Let's roll out the welcome mat in areas international visitors most want to see.
4. Require that taxes be included in all posted and advertised prices
Traveling to Japan and Europe in the past year, it was a huge relief to me to find that posted prices included tax. That meant I could budget my spending much more accurately, since I knew exactly what I'd be charged at the register. But what really struck me was imagining what it would be like for people from those countries to visit America. With sales tax varying from city to city, not to mention state to state, these visitors would have no idea what their final bill would be. (Heck, many American visitors don't.) How would you know if a cashier wasn't ripping you off by throwing a couple extra quarters onto the bill? It's not like most visitors memorize the local tax rates for every place they visit.
And don't get me started on airfares and hotel room charges. Let's make it easier for people to figure out the true cost of travel. Let's be like much of the rest of the world and require businesses to include all applicable taxes in the prices that they post.
What do you think? Over the weekend, I'll post four more things that the U.S. can do over the long term to increase tourism, as well.
Never understood this whole "plus tax" thing, maybe its a con by the companies to make their prices seem lower... I know when the Australian government introduced the GST (Goods and services tax, basically a sales tax), some retailers wanted to follow the American model, but the consumer and competition watchdog was having none of it...
I think you are absolutely Right? We need many Changes. I for one think that an extra revue from an Idea I got from looking at a U.S.A. Flag with an Eagle. Why not have State Quarter Flags. You known like a Quarter with your State on it.
Hi there, I would love to come back to the USA, but its got too dear to travel from the UK. The park tickets are very exspensive for families, cheaper deals and tickets would bring us back asap. i have been looking at theme park closer to home this year, but our youngest wants to go to orlando again. The visa scheme is great but puts extra on the hoilday, before we book. we have to see, if we can travel to the USA. If not, we would have to travel to London from manchester to get visas etc, more money.
You make some good point but missed on a few very important ones.
Right on! Being a foreigner myself (been living in the US for over a decade now) I know how difficult it can be to travel to the US. Things can go beyond the language, visa issues, and sales tax. We are used to measuring things in miles, reading temperature in Fahrenheit, and weighing things in pounds. Most of the world is not. Those are simple things but I've seen them cause a lot of misunderstanding!
I wrote about how many taxes I paid and listed said items in a thread on this site a few months back. Some ignorant folks made a few comments about taxes in Florida compared to other states when all I was doing was pointing out how much we are taxed on a simple vacation.
Thankfully, I don't need a visa and I also don't mind the ESTA, apart from the fact they now charge for it.
I agree about arriving in the usa. OK dont esta done advance information and then after a 10 hour flight have to stand and queue forever to get into the country
I totally agree with the sales tax, it's confusing for tourists when they shop in the US, it would be more sensible to display the prices with tax so the one can budget whilst shopping without getting a nasty shock at the checkout
US business owners are funny about posting taxes on their products, but there is a reason for it. From a retail standpoint, it's quite the undertaking for some places to move to this model. Think of a store that has thousands of UPC codes and tags on each item. Then think of the tag itself. Since POS computers automatically add tax to a purchase, that means the bar code would have to stay the same and the actual price on the tag would have to reflect the price in that store/town. The other alternative is to have POS machines not reflect sales tax and just have both the UPC and price tag the same, but that would still require work on the back end, as well as an overhaul to every POS and bookkeeping software. Is it possible? Yes, but we are talking about interrupting the supply chain and adding extra steps to it. That make it more costly to do business, and usually ends with higher prices. Something like this might work within a small regional operation or a local store that prices it's own stuff, but it would be a mess with a national company that gets product from everywhere and has a central computer gathering data from multiple states. Better to figure a way to post rates or some kind of scale.
I will start off by saying that number 4 is a great idea and probably wouldn't cost any extra money or extra politics.
No visa requirement makes no difference. That online form, the entrance fee and all those stupid questions at the airport are much more anoying than most visa procedures. In addition theres always some risk the stupid questions get extended from 5 minutes to hour long interrogations. The later one probably scares most people off.
I agree with all of the comments. Even as a native I would like to see tax included in the listed price. The problem rises when you have strange percentages as in California. Lets say you have an item that normally lists at $1.00. At 8.75% tax, it would be $1.09 (rounded up of course). If the listed price included tax and you purchased 25 of the items you would pay $27.25 for the items. If you purchse the same 25 items with no tax listed you would pay $27.19. Maybe a win-win in the long run, with more tax money coming in and an easier monitary language for out of towners. Don't know if it matters that there is that difference, but you never know.
I couldn't agree more. Coming from Australia I had to apply and pay for a visa to visit America. It's cost wasn't prohibitory, but since I can travel any European country, most Asian and South American and African countries without one it might have put me off (if I wasnt going to the US to visit my sister). Especially since after I arrived I still had to have a visa screen- I theoretically could have still been denied entry, even though I already had a visa. The tax thing is annoying, but probably more so because it changes between states and products and is always a difficult amount to estimate before you go to pay (13.5% whhaaaatt) especially since all the US money looks the same (I'm in favour of pretty coloured monies so I dont have to pull out each note to read). Personally I would love to see more language signs in the parks. In Europe I liked to be able to read the names of different places in different languages!
I definitly agree with point 4, it's really difficult for anyone visiting the states. I have long avoided going to the US just because of differences like these, oh and the whole tipping thing. I also agree with the points other people have made about getting into the States it's ridiculous. I'm lucky I can get an ESTA online coming from NZ but the way every none american is treated like a criminal and finger printed does not increase good foreign relations. The staff are also in need of some customer service skills. You never have these problems going in anywhere else and immigration staff elsewhere are always friendly despite their serious job. On saying all this though, once in the US we were very impressed by the standard of the customer serivce and have already decided we need to come back.
The Tax thing is annoying but not even close to the experience of US Customs. I have travelled all over the world and have never experienced the attitudes shown in the US. Everyone is treated like a criminal. I travel to the US regularly I have an ESTA and each time I travel its as a tourist and like most tourists I leave thousands behind me each time I go.
Something else the US can do that they simply are not doing right now is to take a realistic look at prices they charge and make it affordable to travel. As an example, my wife and I take one big trip every year for our anniversary in October. Last year we had every intention of going to Hawaii for 5 nights. When looking at travel sites we were blown away at how much more expensive the islands of Aloha had become to visit, even from a place as relatively close as Los Angeles. On a whim we decided to look at travel to Europe...to our IMMENSE surprise we were able to go to LONDON instead. We were able to afford 7 nights instead of 5, not have to worry about renting a car due to the fantastic tube system and the entire trip was LESS expensive and a heck of a lot more exciting.
I have visited the USA several times (from the UK) with my kids. However, each time I get pulled into another room for extra questioning at immigration. The questions are usually the same and totally pointless, e.g. how much do you earn?! The only reason I can think of is that I have an unusual surname. Another point - on the ESTA they ask if you have ever been arrested for a moral turpitude (whatever the exact definition of that is), and if so, it says you have to apply for a visa. Now I know of many people who have been put off from visiting by this because they had spent a night in a police cell in their youth many years ago for things like being drunk.
The language barrier and the tax ting is not a problem. When I drive for 5 hours I could meet 8 different countries and languages. English is ok. The whole Spanish thing that is going on at the moment in the US is horrible. Rude staff, bad service and people who are hardly able to speak English in a way I could understand.
Have a smoking area in the airports so all of the passengers are catered for especially if they're on long flights.
You want to bring tourists to America? Give them something they can't get anywhere else. I realize this is a themepark forum, but I am currently in Niagara Falls, NY and the amount of foreign tourists is amazing. They outnumber Americans. When I visit Washington, DC and the Grand Canyon, it's the same thing. I don't think it's that it's difficult to get here but we need to have things which will attract visitors. I think Disney shot themselves in the foot by building parks in other countries. Why come here to see Cinderella when she's in Europe and Asia? What the states should do is enhance what is already here and perhaps visitors will stay here longer. Niagara Falls, NY doesn't offer half the attractions as the Canadian side so people travel there after visiting here.
I agree with some, if not much, of what you said, and in the interests of keeping this short, I won't reply to any of the other replies (is that redundant?).
They are good points, but you left off some good ones.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.