The 'Fortress America' Perception

New security rules are a double-edged sword.

By: Jose Estorino

The international traveling public increasingly perceives that myriad new security rules are creating a “Fortress America.”

They have noted the increase in visa fees, new visa interview requirements and growing visa denials.

They are also aware of machine-readable passport deadlines, the future use of biometric identifiers in U.S. visas and Visa Waiver passports, collection and use of advance passenger information, or API, along with the soon to be implemented US VISIT entry-exit system that is scheduled to begin at U.S. airports and seaports in 2004.

By and large, these new rules and requirements make sense from a homeland security perspective, and the Travel Industry Association and the U.S. travel industry support efforts to enhance national security.

But for many prospective international visitors, wave after wave of new travel requirements paints a ‘big picture’ that the United States is becoming a destination that is too difficult to enter, too expensive to visit and simply not worth the effort. ...

Perception has become the new reality, and even in countries where there are relatively few barriers for travel to the U.S., this negative perception has resulted in lost business for the United States.

Again, we must have enhanced U.S. national security as well as growth in travel and tourism and the overall U.S. economy. These goals are not mutually exclusive, and we can and must have both.

Excerpts from Senate testimony on U.S. visa policy late last month by Jose Estorino, senior vice president of marketing for Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau, on behalf of the Travel Industry Association of America.