Friday, 11 April 2008

Swings and Roundabouts in USA Tourism

A gloomy story this week in eTurboNews suggests that the USA is losing billions of dollars in inbound tourism because the outside world is convinced that entering the States will be a hassle - both in the time it takes to get a US visa, and in the potential delays and suspicion foisted on travellers on arrival.

Though they're a bit vague on whether the latter problem is based on reality, there definitely is a perception out here (outside the US) that immigration officials are looking for a reason to kick you out.

Certainly, some knee-jerk high profile knockbacks from recent years - like the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens - have made would-be travellers cautious.

This reluctance to head to America is ironic, though, for in one significant way there's no better time for outsiders to head Stateside.

For months now, my Australian dollar has been buying over 90 US cents, easily the best rate I can remember in my adult life. Travellers from other nations are also noticing the effect: the Euro, for example, recently rose to its best rate ever against the USD.

Curiously, the USA carries out little in the way of large-scale tourism promotion in other countries. Perhaps they could adapt Tourism Australia's recent unsuccessful campaign slogan, "Where the Bloody Hell Are Ya?", into something like "Where the Heck Are Ya - It's Cheap Here!".

As the article mentions, there are now plans for the US to set up a tourism promotion fund - by slugging incoming travellers more for their visas! Ouch. Hey guys, shouldn't you pay for it yourself?

Meanwhile, the Aussie dollar has quietly been rising against the Japanese yen as well. The tourism authorities there have cottoned onto the fact that their reputedly expensive destination is now distinctly cheaper for gaijin from Down Under and Europe; hence this promotion, Affordable Japan.

Hmm, that looks good... I think the US might have to wait until I've seen those cherry blossoms.