The Bush administration is assuring U.S. tourism officials that it will do its best to attract international visitors without sacrificing the nation's security.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the importance of tourism at an international travel and tourism summit in Washington, D.C. this week.
"Throughout our history, America has always been a welcoming nation, and today we are more committed than ever to advancing our tradition of openness."
She announced new measures to speed up the flow of travelers, including 500 new consular positions overseas and electronic passports for faster processing of visitors at the nation’s borders.
Her remarks were well received by U.S. tourism officials, who complain the tourism business has declined as a result of stricter security measures after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, U.S. market share of international tourism is at an all-time low, dropping 35 percent between 1992 and 2004.
Roger Dow, the Chief Executive of TIA, says, "Everyone is looking for the same tourists, so the share of (U.S.) tourists has actually slipped, so the pie is growing, but our slice has stayed the same."
The hotel business is just one of the industries that has suffered losses. James LoBosco is general manager of the Madison Loews Hotel in Washington, D.C. "The impact of the terrorist attacks really affected travel, to D.C. in particular. It restricted airports, and security and everything else, and it significantly impacted our business levels."
Tourism business leaders say they are hopeful that collaboration with the government over how to attract foreigners will succeed, and that the new measures will bring international tourists, and their money, back to the U.S.