Channel NewsAsia

Obama aims to lure more foreign travellers

President Barack Obama will move on Thursday to reduce airport waiting times for foreign travellers arriving in the United States in order to boost tourism, the White House said.

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama will move on Thursday to reduce airport waiting times for foreign travellers arriving in the United States in order to boost tourism, the White House said.

Obama will visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York to discuss tourism, two years after establishing the goal of making the United States the world's top tourist destination.

The US is currently the world's second tourist destination after France, according to the World Tourism Organisation, and Obama says that gaining the top spot would create jobs.

Obama is going to ask his secretaries of commerce and homeland security, Penny Pritzker and Jeh Johnson, to "develop a national goal to improve the entry process and reduce wait times for international travellers to the United States, and action plans at the 15 largest airports for international arrivals," a White House statement said.

It is common for international travellers arriving in the US to spend more than an hour at passport control and customs processing checkpoints at American airports, where controls there have been tightened dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

To speed things up, the Obama administration wants more checkpoints to be automated.

Congress recently gave the green light for an additional 2,000 border guards to be deployed.

On January 19, 2012, Obama set the goal of making the United States the world's top tourism destination by, among other things, granting more visas to people from China and Brazil.

Two years later, the White House says it has made significant progress by reducing the average time people from those countries must wait to get a visa.

The White House says the total number of visas granted by the United States has gone up by 42 per cent since 2010, reaching 9.2 million in 2013.

Obama wants the United States to lure 100 million visitors a year by 2021. In 2013, the figure was 70 million, compared to 55 million in 2009, according to figures released by the administration.

The administration says nearly eight million jobs in America are linked to tourism.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna