Overseas travelers, especially those on business, are staying away from the U.S. because of cumbersome airport entry and customs procedures, according to a survey from the U.S. Travel Association.
The survey found that 44% of overseas business travelers will not visit the U.S. in the next five years due solely to lengthy and inefficient customs and entry procedures. That contrasts with 11% who said they won’t visit for leisure trips and 21% who won’t visit on combined business and leisure trips.
“Too many visitors to our country – one in three – report that they have experienced a customs process that they believe is inconsistent, confusing or embarrassing,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
“As the U.S. spends millions to recapture the world’s interest and inspire international travelers to visit, we are failing to address a galling entry experience.”
Forty-three percent of travelers who have visited said they’ll advise others to avoid the U.S. because of the entry process, according to the survey. And visitors to the U.S. tell an average of eight others about their travel experience – good and bad – further impacting the desire to visit.
In another finding, one in seven international travelers reported missing a connecting flight due to long wait times or delays at customs. The result: cancelled travel plans, hotel rooms, rental cars, meetings and other activities.
Huge loss to economy
The U.S. is “falling behind other countries” or is even the “worst” in terms of the customs process, according to one in three travelers.
U.S. Travel estimates a loss of $95 billion to the economy and 518,900 jobs from overseas visitors who avoid travel to the U.S. because of poor customs and entry procedures.
Before the sequestration budget cuts, major gateway airports reported two- to three-hour waits to clear customs, according to U.S. Travel. It added that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said those waits are likely to increase as U.S. Customs and Border Protection eliminates overtime and furloughs agents.
Call for resources
Dow said U.S Travel is calling on President Obama and Congress to immediately provide the resources to “efficiently process our nation’s guests.”
An additional 1,000 customs and border protection officers, costing about $150 million, would help meet a 30-minute standard for processing overseas travelers, he added.
Consensus Research Group conducted the online survey of 1,200 overseas travelers who have visited or considered visiting the U.S. in the last five years. Respondents were from the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, China and Brazil.