Almost half of all foreign business travelers say they will not visit the United States in the next five years because of the problems they have experienced with the entry process at gateway airports.
That is one of the findings of a study released this week by the U.S. Travel Association that reports on the economic consequences of the problems with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection entry process and offers some recommendations to resolve the situation.
According to the study, 2.7 million international travelers avoid visiting th
e U.S. every year because the process to enter the country is too difficult or takes too long. Since, according to U.S. Travel, the average foreign business visitor spends $4,500 on each trip, that translates to $11.8 billion in lost business every year.
“International travel is a bright spot for the U.S. economy,” says U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement, “but long lines and wait times that many experience are deterring millions of potential visitors.”
Among the recommendations U.S. Travel makes in the report is the passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that should be considered soon by the U.S. House of Representatives. Among its many provisions is the hiring of an additional 3,500 Customs and Border Patrol officers and the reduction of the average primary processing wait time at airports.
The report suggests the goal should be to process every foreign visitor at an airport or seaport within 30 minutes of his or her arrival. However, over the last year 180,000 travelers who entered the country at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport waited more than two hours to be processed. At Miami International Airport, 40,000 waited more than two hours.
One in seven overseas visitors interviewed for the study said they had missed a connecting flight to a U.S. destination because of customs delays and 44 percent said they would not visit the U.S. again until the problems are resolved.