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America's lost tourism opportunity: By the numbers
Strict visa regulations are making it harder for foreigners to visit the U.S. — depriving the country's tourism industry of much-needed revenue and jobs
America has lost out on as much as $606 billion in international tourism revenue because of bureaucratic red tape.
America has lost out on as much as $606 billion in international tourism revenue because of bureaucratic red tape.
Brigitte Sporrer/Corbis

"Over the past decade, the U.S. economy has missed an unprecedented global travel boom because of visa delays and other bureaucratic policies that discourage visitors to our shores," say Roger J. Dow, the head of the U.S. Travel Association, in The Wall Street Journal. Our struggling economy is missing out on hundreds of thousands of jobs, Dow says, and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. Here, a brief guide, by the numbers, to America's "lost decade of tourism":

17
America's share, in percent, of the long-haul travel market in 2000, according to Dow

12
America's share, in percent, of the long-haul travel market in 2010

467,000
Number of jobs lost because of this decline in tourism

$606 billion
Amount of tourism revenue that America lost due to this decline

$37 billion
Lost tax revenue. "During a time of high unemployment and rising deficits, the U.S. cannot afford to continue down this path," says Dow.

$4,000
Average amount that hotels, restaurants, shops, and other businesses accrue for every international traveler who comes to the U.S.

More than 100
Number of days that an applicant from an "emerging market" country like Brazil may have to wait to get an interview for a visa to visit the U.S.

1,250
Number of miles a family of four in Manus, Brazil, would need to travel to get to Brasilia for an interview at a U.S. consulate before they could visit the U.S.

90
Number of days that same family could visit Europe for without needing a visa. "No wonder six million travelers from China, India, and Brazil visited Western Europe last year while only 2.6 million came to the U.S.," says Dow. "This self-inflicted wound is especially painful since travelers from China, India, and Brazil rank first, second and fourth respectively in total spending once they get to the U.S."

36
Number of countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. They include Spain, Japan, and Australia. Nationals from these 36 countries may visit the U.S. for a stay of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. To recapture the 17 percent market share of international travel, the Visa Waiver Program must be expanded to include new countries, Dow says.

2.8
Percent of GDP produced by the travel and tourism industry, according to the State Department (pdf)

4
Percent of total travelers in the U.S. who are international visitors

19
Percent of total travel-related spending that international visitors account for

827,000
Number of American jobs supported by international visitors' spending in 2010

80,000
Number of jobs added to the economy in October, the lowest number in four months, according to TIME

Sources: International Trade Administration, TIME, State Department, Wall Street Journal

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