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The latest travel forecast for the rest of the year and into 2023 from the U.S. Travel Association predicts that international inbound travel to the U.S. could slow, attributed to economic concerns and long wait times for first-time visitor visa applicants – with some countries reporting a wait time between 400 to 800 days.
The last report, completed in June, estimated international visitor volume would end this year at 67 percent of the pre-pandemic average from 2019. The pre-pandemic number of visitors was 79.4 million.
That estimate has now lowered to 63 percent of that number, or 50.2 million visitors. The new report also lowered its estimate for 2023 visitor volume from 82 percent of the pre-pandemic number to 75 percent, indicating a loss of another 8 million international visitors and $28 billion in spending across 2022 and 2023.
At this rate, the U.S. tourism economy is projected to recover fully from the effects of the pandemic in 2025.
One of the reasons for this decrease in international arrivals is the country’s long interview wait times for first-time visitor visa applicants, which in countries like Brazil, India and Mexico can be as long as 400 to 800 days. In fact, the average wait time for first-time visitor visa applicants from the top ten source countries for international arrivals is now over 400 days.
“While economic concerns are natural, excessive visitor visa wait times are a man-made obstacle that the Biden administration seemingly refuses to address,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “Reducing visitor visa wait times in top inbound markets will drive visitation and help protect the American economy.”
According to U.S. Travel, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy’s goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027 is being slowed by visa issues, as is the country’s overall restoration of its tourism economy.
The nonprofit advocacy organization suggests a return to the executive order on interview wait times by September 30, 2023, which would reduce 80 percent of interview wait times to less than 21 days; lower interview wait times in key markets to a standard of 21 days by April 30, 2023; create a dedicated group process that allows for tour groups or travelers attending events to hasten their visa processing; and waive visa renewal interviews for nonimmigrant visas through 2024.
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