(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Standing in front of Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Thursday afternoon, President Obama will call for a national strategy to make the U.S. the world’s number one travel and tourism destination.
Tourism means big bucks: Last year, international tourists spent an estimated $140 billion in the U.S.
Whether they come to Disney World to meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or elsewhere, tourists from emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil are their own mini stimulus packages, dropping up to $6,000 per tourist.
But for the last decade, they’ve been increasingly spending that money elsewhere, as the U.S. share of global tourism plummeted from 17 percent to 11 percent. This is largely because of post-9/11 security procedures that have made getting a visa an arduous process.
The U.S. Travel Association estimates that these delays have cost the U.S. economy $606 billion and 467,000 jobs over the last decade.
“Every 35 visitors to the U.S. creates one job,” Geoff Freeman, chief operating officer of the U.S. Travel Association told ABC News. “We were losing between four and five thousand jobs a year because of our inability to keep pace with global travel trends.”
So Thursday, at the Magic Kingdom, Obama will announce plans to turn that around with steps such as simplifying the process for tourism visas, adding an estimated 100 more consuls in countries such as China and Brazil.
The president is taking his actions through executive order, as part of his “We Can’t Wait” initiatives which he says are necessary because of congressional gridlock, and which critics warn are increasingly becoming extra-Constitutional power grabs.
Nonetheless, administration officials say the moves could have a serious stimulative impact.
The White House hopes these new measures will help add 1.2 million new jobs and $859 billion to the U.S. economy by 2020.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eli Watkins, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
AJ Willingham, CNN