Since September 11, the U.S. has seen a 17% decline in foreign visitors, and a travel advocacy group says that the reason is “a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers from visiting the United States and damaging America’s image abroad.”
The Discover America Partnership/RT Strategies study of international travelers shows that foreign visitors to the United States worry more about customs officials at ports of entry than terrorism, but that tourists and business travelers who manage to run the gauntlet and visit the U.S. largely come away with a more favorable impression of the people and the country’s policies.
“This study should be a wake-up call for the U.S. government,” said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership. “Visiting the United States and interacting with the American people can have a powerful, positive effect on how non-U.S. residents see our country. Unfortunately, perceptions of a rude and arrogant entry process are turning away travelers and harming America’s image.”
“Foreign travelers are in agreement: the U.S. entry process is unpredictable and unfriendly to foreign visitors, it is hurting America’s image abroad and deterring many from visiting the U.S.,” said Thomas Riehle of RT Strategies.
The group calls for “minor changes” it says would greatly improve world perception of the U.S. and especially its foreign policy and diplomatic efforts worldwide.
The Department of Homeland Security, however, is not impressed.
A third of respondents said immigration officials were so abrasive that they do not plan to return. More than half of respondents said they were concerned about a terrorist attack or crime and safety issues when they visited the United States. But even more — 70 percent — said they were worried that “legal and security issues” and treatment of visitors, would mar their stay. . . .
In response to the criticisms from travelers, several airlines have approached the Homeland Security Department, the State Department and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about providing “hospitality training” for federal security workers, Freeman said.
A DHS spokesman declined to say whether the air carriers had offered to provide the training, or whether any agencies would accept it. “The survey is flawed and self-serving,” said department spokesman Jarrod Agen. — Government Executive
Oh no, we wouldn’t want anyone to come here, spend their money, and come to understand and maybe even appreciate us! That would be flawed and self-serving.
And it’s not just the foreigners who get the rough treatment from Customs and Border Protection officials at ports of entry. Ordinary Americans like Gordon Johnson, 77, of Bath, Ohio, do too. Johnson returned from a trip to England earlier this month and was immediately put in a holding cell for no apparent reason.
“I’m on this list, y’know, and therefore I really can’t enter the United States and at that point, I really got scared,” Gordon says. . . .
Finally, after about a half-hour, Gordon was allowed to continue on his trip home but encouraged not to travel overseas again.
“I’m no threat at all,” complains the former Firestone High School teacher. “I mean, it’s ridiculous. I want people to know that slowly but surely many of our freedoms are being taken away.” — WKYC
He’s still waiting for some explanation from the Department of Homeland Security as to why he was detained and encouraged not to leave the country ever again.