On Wednesday the U.S. Travel Association released a report which categorically illustrates the severe negative financial effects of lengthy waiting time at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry process. They also suggested a list of 20 urgent changes that should be made to make things better and faster for the visitors.
The release of study was accompanied by an open letter addressed to the congress, which was signed by a number of representatives from the travel sector, imploring it to take preventive actions as recommended in the study.
The U.S. has seen a steady rise in international travelers and the forecast is a further positive growth in the future. Additionally, the national target in the U.S. has been to increase international visitation to 100 million by 2021. As a result it is of critical importance that new resources are put into place to increase the efficiency of the CBP officials allowing more visitors to be processed in the shortest possible time, while not compromising with any of the security requirements.
If the increased resources are not made available it is certain to affect the recovery process of the economy. The report claims that the delayed processing of visitors at the CBP counters and the determent due to negative feedbacks leading to cancelled trips is going to cost the economy over $95 billion over the next five years – an amount that could have supported 518,000 jobs in the U.S.
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association mentioned that last year more than 67 million visitors came to the U.S. Unfortunately, however, a lot of them had to spend the first few hours upon arrival, waiting in lines completing their entry process at the CBP counters. Needless to say, international tourism is contributing important dollars in the nation’s rebuilding process; however the time taken in completing the entry process upon arrival is causing many potential tourists to think otherwise. He also added that there has never been a question about the efficiency and honesty of the CBP officers, with even delayed travelers stating they are competent and hard working. The problem he says lies in the policy and the lack of resources.
The report titled “Gateway to Jobs & Growth: Creating a Better Traveler Entry Process,” looks at the causes and effects of travelers standing in a line instead of being out on their own, spending money. It says this costs the U.S. economy $416 million each year, enough to support 3700 jobs.
Even more damaging is the fact that many potential tourists who have heard negatively about the unduly long and irritating U.S. CBP process decide not to come at all. The report mentions that each year about 2.7 million travelers, nearly nine percent of all potential trips, decide against coming to the U.S. because they feel negatively about the waiting process and make their travel plans elsewhere. On an average each traveler to the U.S. spends about $4500, which means annually about $11.8 billion is lost by the travel industry. The report mentions that if Congress helps in implementing the changes to ensure that waiting time at the entry points does not go beyond 30 minutes, the U.S. economy will experience a resulting surge of about $3.5 billion in spending and create 24,000 jobs.
“I join with other travel leaders in calling on Congress to invest in the U.S. entry process so that our international guests feel welcomed from the first moment they enter the country,” said Jim Abrahamson, CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts and national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. “Our path to welcoming 100 million or more international travelers every year is paved with reforms to our visa issuance process, our newly established national tourism promotion program and, now, improvements to the U.S. entry process.”
“At all of our gateway airports, we continuously work to create an efficient and best-in-class experience for our passengers,” said Rosemarie S. Andolino, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation and chair of U.S. Travel’s Gateway Airports Council. “We believe that Congress should provide increased funding for CBP staff and initiatives such as Automated Passport Control to improve the re-entry process for U.S. and international travelers.”
Necessary policy adjustments identified by U.S. Travel and outlined in the report include:
- Hiring 3,500 additional CBP officers as provided for in the Senate immigration bill (S. 744);
- Staffing flexibility to ensure CBP’s officers are allocated for maximum efficiency;
- Implementing enhanced technology to alleviate pressure on CBP officer staffing;
- Reducing peak wait times by 50 percent and processing each traveler within 30 minutes; and
- Enhancing transparency to improve government and private-sector coordination.
An additional 3500 CBP officers have been provided for in the recent comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate. It also aims to reduce the primary processing time at high-volume international airports by 50 percent. The bill also sets a target, to be achieved by the end of fiscal year 2016, to cut the processing time taken at airports for air passengers down to 30 minutes.
Apart from the researching of data relating to waiting time at the airports, the U.S. Travel Association also interviewed a number of passengers to understand their side of the story and what they feel should be done to improve the situation. They seem to suggest equivocally that the CBP officers are hard working and competent but the problem lies in the fact that U.S. checkpoints are too understaffed to handle the increased volume of travelers.