Begich Calls for Expedited Tourist Visas to Bolster Economy
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
summer four United States
Senators- including Alaska's
Mark Begich- founded the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus. Earlier this month
Senator Begich visited Kodiak and talked briefly about how he and his
colleagues are working to adapt U.S.
travel visa policies to a changing world economy.
"The tourist visa, where people come
and visit out country, it's a long process. In some countries it's much
quicker. For example, in South Korea,
when we changed the visa process there we increased out international travel
from South Korea
across the country 42 percent. Bam! Just like that, because it was easier.
People are now in two countries-China and Brazil- their middle class is
growing significantly and they want to travel, they want to go to unique
places. Alaska is one of those places, but if it takes them six months to get a
visa, they're not coming. They're going to pick some other exotic place or some
other unique place. So we're working with the administration, they've been
helpful in getting these timelines tighter. So if you're from Brazil and you want to come to the United States, want to come to Alaska, you'll be able to get your visa much
quicker. That will increase our tourism business. Fifteen percent of Alaska's tourism
business comes from foreign travelers. Foreign travelers stay longer and they
spend more money and we like that."
says part of the caucus's goal is to educate policy makers about the impact of
tourism in a place like Alaska.
"Here's what I think people think
about tourism when they're back in Washington, ‘Well that tourism business,
that's a low paying job, no one wants to work in that job, that's a starter job.'
Well actually, it's a mix. There's a lot of young people who work in that
industry and there's a lot of secondary components. When you come over to a
forest service building there's guides there that want to guide you there. I
met a gentlemen here who has a lodge, for example. He does that as his career,
that's his life. I think there's an undervalue of our tourism industry in this
country and what we're trying to do- as one of the members and cofounders of
the tourism caucus in the United States Senate- is bring a much larger
awareness but also show that it's a really big industry and employs a wide
range of types of folks in it."
March, Senator Amy Klobuchar- who heads the tourism caucus- introduced the Jobs
Originated through Launching Travel Act. The JOLT Act would expedite the
processing of business and tourist visas, approve multiple-entry visas for
qualified Chinese tourists and allow longer visits to the United States
for some Canadian tourists.