Sunday, November 04, 2007

you never call, you never visit

Via Atrios, it seems that our plan to build a Berlin Wall-style border fence, arbitrarily lock up and deport unskilled laborers, and probe, prod, and generally hassle everyone who wants to set foot on American soil is impacting travel patterns in predictable ways:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The number of foreign visitors to the United States has plummeted since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington because foreigners don't feel welcome, tourism professionals said Thursday.

"Since September 11, 2001, the United States has experienced a 17 percent decline in overseas travel, costing America 94 billion dollars in lost visitor spending, nearly 200,000 jobs and 16 billion dollars in lost tax revenue," the Discover America advocacy campaign said in a statement.

It’s good to see the business-friendly Bush administration working its trademark administrative magic to improve the competitiveness of American corporations in an ever-more connected world.

Chairman Stevan Porter lamented the "extraordinary decline" in the number of overseas visitors to the United States, while the advocacy group's executive director, Geoff Freeman, blamed the slump on the shabby welcome many foreigners feel they get in the United States.

"It's clear what's keeping people away in the post-9/11 environment: it is the perception around the world that travelers aren't welcome," Freeman told AFP.

"Travelers around the world feel the US entry experience is among the world's worst," Freeman said, calling on the US government to work with the private sector to make visa acquisition more efficient, the entry process traveler-friendly, and to improve communication.

Traveling to a place, meeting the people who live there, and experiencing their hospitality in person typically improves a traveler’s perceptions of the place, perceptions that would otherwise be premised on abstraction and rumor. We’ve removed that option for many, and made travel difficult and sometimes humiliating for those for whom the option remains. We’ve even stopped our own leaders from traveling freely, showing that our entry policies long ago lost touch with reality.

Last year, only 56 percent of Britons had a positive opinion of the United States compared with 83 percent in 2000, the Pew Global Attitudes report for 2006 shows.

Thirty-nine percent of French people saw the United States in a positive light last year, compared with 62 percent in 2000.

In Turkey 12 percent had good things to say about the United States last year -- 40 percentage points down on 2000.

These are our ostensible allies.

The cycle we’ve been stuck in for most of my lifetime, but especially since 9/11, of distrust and alienation is not sustainable. It’s up to us to change this country in which we live.


nicolle said...

So do you feel that the only option left is to leave the US like Rob thinks? Or do you think that it is possible to live here and represent a different kind of American? What do you think about hosting students (mostly adults, like the ones that go to Rob's school) as a way to improve relations and perceptions, albeit only one person at a time?

Anonymous said...

I buy this, but just from my own experience, it seems like Europeans are still flocking to places like New York, especially with the dollar so low against the Euro. Also, I wonder if this ebb and flow usually happens based upon political leadership in a country, not just policy fallout. Did people really want to visit Thatcher's England? Not that I can think of a world leader in recent memory much worse than GWB.

yave said...

It's hard to overstate the visceral unfavorable reaction to Bush many non-Americans have--although I've not been out of the country for some time now.

I guess the significant thing about this article is that travel is still falling off even though the dollar is so cheap.

Nicolle, I think those are good ideas. I don't know if opting out is the right answer, although then you might be able to give people a different image of Americans than they might expect. Also, ever the optimist, I continue to believe the GOP will get decimated in next year's elections, hopefully making this a somewhat more livable country.