By Jami Miedema

Every year, international travel to the United States brings in approximately $80 billion to our economy. Unfortunately, in the last five years the number of foreign travelers to the U.S. has dwindled by 17%. The September 11 attacks have much to do with these downward trends concerning travel to the United States , not because of travelers’ fear of terrorism in our country, but because of the hassle and anxiety that come along with increased security at our country’s ports.

America has been forced to choose between security and ease of entry into our country. With tighter security, visas can take up to three months to acquire. Also, the unfriendly welcome that visitors may get from stern officials makes other travel options seem more attractive. While we may feel safer with increased security, it is having adverse effects on our economy. Not only is the United States losing its competitiveness with other countries for foreign buyers, but its market share for world travel has been reduced as well. Further, billions of dollars in tax revenue and spending are being lost, causing thousands of people to be laid off.

Discover America Partnership, an organization whose efforts includes creating a more positive view of America to countries around the world, has come up with a three-fold solution to tackle the issues at hand:

•  Create a better visa system – with acquisition within 30 days

•  Modernize and secure ports of entry – hire more personnel and use newer technology to process visitors in 30 minutes or less

•  Change perceptions of America – implementing the first two strategies will provide an incentive for international travelers to come to America , and in turn they may lead to a more favorable image of America from “people-to-people” experiences

The proposed plan has a price tag of $300 million, which will hopefully be funded by government investment. Despite this expense, the rewards our country will see will be even greater! It should help our economy rake in billions of dollars annually from world travel and create thousands of new jobs on our turf. To take a look at the full plan, go to