According to a study by Oxford Economics, written in conjunction with former Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge, the US has seen a 17 percent decrease in visitors since 2000 which has cost the country more than $100 billion in lost visitor spending.
That translates into 200,000 lost jobs and $16 billion in lost tax receipts.
And the trend is continuing with visits from Japan down 27 percent last year and visits from the UK down 11 percent, despite the weakening of the US dollar against the euro and other currencies.
The main reason for this drop is new security procedures that make it difficult to get into the country. European newspapers are full of horror stories about delays and interrogations.
And it isn’t just tourists who are being kept away. It’s people who want to come here and do business, people who want to come here for medical care and people who want to come here to study. They’re all going somewhere else.
Now the Department of Homeland Security is looking at ways to make the situation worse.
DHS ruined thousands of family vacations (and weddings and cruises) this year by requiring passports for travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean without providing the staff and resources needed to process the millions of passport applications that resulted.
Now they are looking at requirements that would make it even harder for visitors from other countries to visit the US.
Congress actually took a step in the right direction earlier this year by increasing (from 27 to 39) the number of countries whose citizens could come to the US without a visa.
The new regulations under consideration by DHS would require citizens from those countries (the people most likely to visit the US) to notify the US government 72 hours before their departure. This is to give DHS a chance to screen passenger lists for suspected terrorists.
These new requirements would reduce still further the number of foreign visitors to the US with additional harm to the US economy. And will they make us safer? How many terrorists are going to be traveling under their own names?