Washington, Sep 20 (IANS): The US government is taking steps to attract more foreign visitors, and is building partnerships with Disney, American Express and other tourism industry stakeholders in this regard, the White House said.
According to Xinhua, a report from the departments of State and Homeland Security, which outlines measures already or being taken, came after President Barack Obama directed federal agencies to expand the country's ability to attract foreign visitors while maintaining high standards of security.
The report said US visa processing has improved in key markets. In China, consular officers are keeping interview waiting times to an average of five days in 2012 while managing a year-on-year 37-percent increase in visa demand.
The US has established a pilot programme that allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain non-immigrant visa renewal applicants in 28 countries.
The report said the State Department was investing millions of dollars to upgrade and expand its existing consular facilities. A new consulate building will be opened in Guangzhou, China in the fiscal year 2013.
The travel and tourism industry is a substantial component of the US GDP and employment, contributing $1.4 trillion in economic activity and 7.5 million jobs, according to 2011 figures.
It is projected that more than one million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market, the White House said.
According to industry experts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or "long-haul" travellers spend an average of $4,000 per visit, which in turn supports and leads to additional travel and tourism-related jobs, the White House said.
"I'm glad we're making progress and I'll continue to do whatever I can to strengthen the travel and tourism industry and create an economy that's built to last," Obama was quoted as saying in a statement.