Foreign travellers avoids the United States
Yesterday, 21/3, there was an article in USA Today stating that overseas travelers to United States say they will avoid returning because of long wait times and inefficient entry procedures at gateway airports, and they will recommend others that they too stay away.
The article was based on a new survey of foreign visitors from Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China and Brazil, published on Tuesday by the US Travel Association. Among the complaints:
One in three travelers said the U.S. was falling behind other countries or it was the worst they had ever experienced in terms of getting through U.S. Customs and Border Protection procedures.
Business travelers, especially, said they were put off by the entry process, with 44% saying they will refuse to visit in the next five years.
One in seven international travelers said they had missed a connection because of delays at Customs. Two-thirds said they would consider the U.S. an attractive destination if the Customs lines and wait times were shorter.
We all know how it is. When arriving to JFK, Dulles, Hartsfield-Jackson or any other of the big U.S. airports, we foreign visitors often wait in long lines to get our passports inspected. Often we get our bags inspected by Customs and Border Protection officers looking for any illegal or dangerous items, such as drugs or certain foods.
Upon reading about the study I realise that I have myself avoided unnecessary travelling to the U.S. for these reasons. When I travel to Latin America or the Caribbean’s I have chosen to go through other routes, and since 2003 I have travelled to the US only when necessary, after two years of regular queuing since September 11. Especially immediately following September 11, 2001 the waiting time could be several hours.
Also stated in the study, forty-three percent of travelers who had traveled to the United States say they will tell other countrymen and women not to visit because of the cumbersome entry process. The survey was taken from January through October of last year by the Consensus Research Group for the U.S. Travel Association, which represents the travel industry and lobbies for its issues.
All visitors are potential residents or investors
It is bad news that tourists are discouraged to return and will advice others to not travel, but in fact the challenge facing United States is bigger than that. Countries, cities and other places have three quite different markets to focus on. These are the markets for investors, visitors and residents. These three main markets are illustrated below.
The visitors´ market is in the center since this is a prime resource for communicating messages and also, of course, for buying the locally produced services and products of the place. One important aspect of this model, is that all visitors are potentially returning, or they can become residents or business investors. Everyone is a visitor at first.
This means that taking proper care of visitors is not only about ensuring them a good experience during that particular trip, but about building confidence for returning, for recommending others to come, to relocate or to invest. It seems the United States border control authorities have not understood this very simple and logical truth. Visitors can act as valuable ambassadors by the stories and experiences that they bring back home or use to compare the place just visited with other places.
The global challenge
This is increasingly important, because countries, regions, cities, clusters and companies are increasingly dependent on attracting skilled professionals and creative talents to strengthen their innovation capacity and create growth. Some go as far as to claim that the global competition for talent will be the most important economic issue of the 21st century.
At the same time the supply of talents is limited and life style preferences guide individuals’ choice to a larger extent than ever before. For example, a survey from 2006 showed that 64% of college graduates choose the city to live in first, and the workplace second.
Research, not the least from Richard Florida, which we have written about previously on this blog, shows that the vitality and attractiveness of locations play a fundamental role for businesses ability to attract and retain talent.
Last week I travelled to Dubai with Emirates for work for some days and as I arrived at what is becoming one of the most busy airports in the world, access was smooth, there was about 20 officers checking passports so I was through security in about ten minutes and could look for my driver and get to the hotel well in time for a good nights sleep. In Dubai the authorities understands the importance of taking well care of visitors.