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Publish Date: 
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Huffington Post

What if we had a simple solution to provide a major stimulus that could quickly increase economic activity by billions of dollars, create more than one million jobs and cost the taxpayer nothing? We have exactly that opportunity right now in the travel industry - we just need to seize it.

We first must address the experience of visitors arriving in the United States at airports that handle international flights. All too often they have a very unwelcoming experience and an unpleasant first impression of our great country. Long lines and a complicated antiquated process greet these arrivals, and as a result, 43 percent of overseas travelers say they would recommend avoiding a trip to the U.S.

Last year, more than 70 million international travelers arrived within our borders, spending an average of $4,500 each. These numbers are impressive, but they could be much higher.

In fact, one billion international trips occurred last year alone, and global tourist arrivals are expected to double in the next 20 years. The U.S. is still one of the most popular destinations, but we must do more to compete for the hearts, minds and dollars of these international travelers. Despite a nearly 60 percent growth in international travel from 2000 to 2013, the U.S. share actually fell to 13.2 percent from 17 percent.