Four more steps America could take to encourage more international tourism
On Friday, I suggested four steps the United States could take to help encourage more international visitors
to come to our country. Today, I'll offer four more suggestions. But these are two-step suggestions, ones that will take quite a bit more time and investment than the suggestions I offered Friday.
Why is this important? International tourism can provide a huge boost to an economy. With the American economy struggling to recover from recession, and with theme park fans ever-hungry for new and better attractions, an increase in international tourism can help bring more dollars into America, helping the country as a whole. And when those dollars are spent on theme park attractions, parks become more willing to make big new investments.
Now that's a train!
5. Build more mass transit to tourist destinations
I've never rented a car abroad. I haven't had to. In Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and France, I've been able to get to all the great tourist destinations I've wanted to visit simply by using other available transportation options - trains and buses. Try to do that in America.
Unfortunately, mass transit doesn't work when you build far-flung attractions, dozens miles away from one another. In order to make train transit affordable and effective in the United States, we'd need to develop a commitment to what's called "transit-oriented development." In short, we'd have to design future development hand-in-hand with plans for new rail routes and stations, so that new attractions, lodging, dining, and retail would be located within reasonable walking distance of stations.
That's what is beginning to happen in Los Angeles County, as communities develop transit-oriented development plans around the county's emerging light-rail system. The Disneyland and Universal Orlando Resorts both are strong candidates for inclusion in an effective rail transit plan, given their compact layouts. And by providing free bus service to hotel guests through Disney's Magical Express, Walt Disney World at least has developed a bus-based mass transit system that's workable. But neither Orange County - in Florida or California - has yet linked these resorts to local airports or other destinations through an effective, large-scale mass transit system, like you can find at Disney in Tokyo and Paris, or Universal in Singapore or Japan.
6. No more tipping
Building upon my suggestion last week to include taxes in all published prices, ending the custom of tipping in restaurants, hotels, etc. would help tourists see the real price of any transaction. You'd know exactly how much a meal would cost, up front, and with no mental calculations for taxes and tips.
To make this fantasy happen, however, American businesses would have to begin paying servers a living wage, instead of relying upon their customers to make up the difference from the sub-minimum wage restaurants now pay their service employees. Unless there's a huge revival of labor unions, or Americans start electing labor-friendly representatives to Congress, I can't imagine how that would happen.
There is one way we could move closer to this goal however, and it wouldn't take an act of Congress. Disney could again include service in its Disney Dining program, as it did for years before eliminating the tips from that once-truly all-inclusive dining deal. That'd make life a little easier for visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort - not to mention for the servers who get stiffed by visitors who don't realize that their Disney Dining deal doesn't include compensation for their waiters.
7. Encourage more Americans to speak other languages
Why do so many Americans consider being monoglot a mark of superiority? As much as the French demand people at least attempt to speak their language in their country, I found few French who couldn't speak English (and usually German, Spanish, or Italian), as well. We have millions of native Spanish and French speakers living with us here in North America. It's not an act of weakness to learn an additional language. It's an act of confidence - confidence that we live in a place so attractive that others will want to visit us, and confidence that we will have the grace and willingness to welcome them.
Of course, we can't support expanded language education in this country without supporting education in general. With climbing child poverty rates depressing test scores and consuming expensive support resources in school districts around the country, I can't imagine where we'd get the money to start and expand foreign language instruction programs at the early elementary level, when they are most effective.
8. Encourage more Americans to travel
I believe that the best hosts are former guests, because you know what it's like to be a visitor to a new place, and know how you wish you'd been treated. This is the reason theme parks usually allow their employees into the park for free during their off hours - they want their workers to see the place through a visitor's eyes, so that they can better meet those visitors' needs when they're back on the clock. So I believe America would be an even more welcoming place to international visitors if more Americans traveled abroad themselves.
What's holding us back? Getting enough time off work. Having the money to afford the flight, plus hotels abroad. (Tip: Never fly abroad on a U.S.-flagged airline. If you're using miles on a U.S.-flagged airline, apply them to a flight on one of the airline's international code-share partners. You'll get far better service and more value for your dollar.) But there's a step the U.S. government could take that would eliminate one barrier to international travel while showing Americans that their nation value travel abroad.
We could issue every citizen a passport at birth, for free. Create a right to identification, one that would allow every American to get a free copy of a passport. Today, only one in three Americans have a passport.
By taking all these steps, we could begin changing our culture, to make it more engaged and welcoming to the rest of the world. And when we do that, perhaps we can change our approach toward border entry, ditching the assumption that every visitor is a potential terrorist who must prove his or her innocence, and moving toward seeing every visitor as an individual, who should be welcomed… then assessed.
These are hardly the only steps America and its citizens could take to encourage more visitors to come to our country. But I think it's important for us to better connect with others outside our country (that's one reason why I love the Internet so much), whether it's by going over "there" or having more of "them" come over here. Let's talk down the xenophobes in our country who think everyone who looks or talks different is an enemy and start talking about ways to build our economy through international outreach, instead.
I love the idea about all Americans having a passport. I've had one since High School, and I do my best to put it to use at least every other year. Yes, we live in a great nation, but anyone who thinks the citizens of other countries chant, "We're number two! We're number two!" during their national holidays is living with their heads up their butts. The best way to understand the rest of the world is to visit it.
Some suggestions are like taking a page from the socialist manifesto. Give me a break! Encouraging unions? So the unions can strike and strand tourists for weeks and months? This happens a lot in Europe.
Absolutely. I grew up in northern New Jersey and now live in NYC. I have also lived in Florida in Ohio, and couldn't believe the lack of railways in metropolitan areas. This country NEEDS more mass transit systems, but Congress seems to disagree. They're cutting funding, causing fare hikes; a move that will leave less money in the pockets of middle/lower class workers who can't afford cars, and rely on mass transit to get to/from work.
I can't help but notice Anon Mouse's pessimistic comments on so many posts on this site. It's sad that a site devoted to places that bring so much joy to millions of people can elicit such negative responses.
No more tipping,I hate having to do this when I come from the UK. Pay american workers better wages. I also hate it when servers go on about tipping,I'll tip if you deserve it.
Theres simple ways to avoid rewarding bad service. Stop patronizing the place where you experience it and/or complain to management. Job done. If you want to reward extra good service with a tip, feel free.
@ Anon Mouse
@Chad: London had a threatened strike by rail and bus unions, which was averted. Perhaps this was a warning about the power of the unions to affect the Olympic games.
@ Anon. And this would not have stranded tourists, and in some cases a court order prevented strike. Meanwhile the Private security company (G4S) only told us with days to go they wouldnt be able to show up, requiring the military to step in to do their job - no union responsible there. Darn Socialised Security forces - no wait, those are the guys who showed up on no notice.
@Chad "Still waiting for this." And you can keep waiting for I don't know what you're expecting. As I don't rely on public transportation, I will not be using it.
Pireus: 2 days
@Chad: Okay, one more time.
@Jack Curley: You gotten it wrong. This post is "eeyore" because it is about how America sucks at tourism, so I don't get your complaint.
@ Anon. I caught the bus today. This bus began its journey in a nation within the European union, and it ended there. One of us takes European public transport to work every day. I rely upon it, and the only time it has let me down is in the worst cold snap in something like a decade when it was too dangerous for the busses and trains to run on most routes, but it didnt matter as my work closed for the same reason.
@Chad: You failed to dispute me that there are no strikes. Now, you're hung up on weeks and months.
But again, noone was stranded in London. No body. National rail still runs when the tube strikes. Busses still run when the tube strikes. Docklands light rail doesn't even have drivers, the emirate air line still runs when the tube strikes, and you better believe the black cabs and minicabs do to. If you can't get around London when the tube stops, well you aren't even trying at all, you are minorly inconvenienced at best. No more or less than when it's closed for maintenance.
Yes, a series of 24 hour strikes does keep happening, however they still don't strand people for weeks or months. In the worst case they strand for hours, back to normal, then back to strike - they do not have a single indefinite rolling strike. They most certainly do not strand people in London or Paris where they have alternative transport. The term is "slightly inconvenienced" by having to use an alternative route or provider.
No one is stranded. Okay, I concede because you can use something else. Is public transportation still a selling point? I don't know anymore.
Exactly, they leave on the same day they're expected.
Politics have prevented the mass transit thing. Ask the Governor of FL
Public transport....like you don't know the difference.
Don't get nitpicky. He meant mass transit when he said public transport. As he said, the strikes were on the tube. Above ground trains still ran, buses still ran... all of those are mass transit. London was obviously smart enough not to unify all their transit options under one authority so that a strike couldn't cripple the city.
I also don't think mass transit would work in much of the US. We're just too spread out from each other. And this is from San Diego where at least one leg of our light rail system has to be counted a rousing success (Tijuana/San Diego). The biggest US city - New York - has little in common with the 2nd biggest - Los Angeles. It's easy - for me at least - to see why mass transit works well in NY while working not so well in LA. Maybe not easy to explain, but I can see it in my head. Yeah, not helpful, I know. The best way I can say it has to do with the LA "sprawl".
Robert - totally agree with your thoughts. I have been to the US on 11 seperate occasions (I live in the UK) and the biggest bugbears for me are the tipping (and knowing how much) and the lack of public transport, especially as I am a non driver.
i think the last lot of comments have completly lost the plot. Unless you have spent time in Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo you have no idea what mass transit means, like when the station master appologises that the train is 30 seconds late, I think the mass transits systems in the big australian cities are great considering our vast spaces and very low population and having traveled in the Uk and some of europe their systems are better than ours. The mickey train to disney HK is great fun. Whilst I agree that the west coast US would be enhanced with fast mass transit eg airport to disney I think that tourists in general would be more concerned with the possability of being killed in mass shooting than being inconveienced with a strike - Yes I was stuck in San fransico when the trams went on strike without warning -
Not only does LA and the rest of So Cal... heck most of the US has a different structure than NYC or even San Francisco where Public Transit does work, I think there's a huge cultural difference in Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, etc.
I think that traveling even in the US changes a person's perseptive on service; both getting and giving service. You would not believe the number of people I run into that have rarely gotten out of California (I don't count a trip to Vegas as traveling out of CA)much less have even gone to San Diego or Eureka. Travel of any kind seems to be a thing our parents did, since people can now "travel" through the internet or by way of their TVs.
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