A recent study taken within the G8 economic nations found that travelers from outside the United States are avoiding the U.S. because of their opposition to its foreign policy. The poll, taken by independent market researcher GMI Inc. of Mercer Island, Wash., surveyed 8,000 people from the eight countries, and it found that 55 percent of Japanese, 36 percent of Germans, and 32 percent of French are less likely to travel to the United States because of its foreign policies.
This sentiment likely translates to group travel, says Rick Webster, director of government affairs for the Travel Industry Association of America, adding that the negative images Europeans and others have of the United States must “enter into the minds of decision-makers when it comes to bringing meetings to the U.S.”
Another issue causing some companies to cancel international meetings scheduled for the United States is the increasing difficulty of getting visas. The good news is that the Department of State has taken steps to address the delays. The department now has a Web site that tells visitors how long it takes to get a visa in a particular country.
There are also signs that the administration is being more flexible when it comes to the Visa Waiver Program, under which residents of 27 countries can travel to the United States without a visa. The Bush Administration, as well as travel and tourism groups, had lobbied for a two-year extension of the requirement that the 27 VWP countries include biometrics in their passports. Congress ultimately accepted only a one-year extension. (Webster expects to lobby for another extension later this year.) In the meantime, anyone from a VWP country attending a meeting in the United States must go through the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, now at all U.S. airports and seaports. US-VISIT requires them to provide digital index-finger scans and a digital photograph in order to verify their identities.