Overseas travelers are avoiding the United States due to "embarrassingly" lengthy and inefficient customs and entry procedures at the nation's gateway airports according to a new survey released today by Consensus Research Group and the U.S. Travel Association. By experience and word of mouth, at least 100 million overseas travelers are receiving the message to avoid travel to the U.S. – costing the economy at least $95 billion in total output and 518,900 jobs.
"Too many visitors to our country – one in three – report that they have experienced a Customs process that they believe is inconsistent, confusing or embarrassing," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "As the U.S. spends millions to recapture the world's interest and inspire international travelers to visit, we are failing to address a galling entry experience that is driving 43 percent of our guests to tell others to avoid travel to our country."
Prior to sequestration budget cuts, prominent gateway airports reported two-to-three hour waits to clear Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has stated publicly that those waits are likely to grow as CBP eliminates overtime and furloughs agents.
The survey, conducted by Consensus Research Group, of overseas travelers who have visited or considered visiting the U.S. in the last five years found that:
- Forty-three percent of travelers who have visited say they will recommend to others to avoid a trip to the U.S. because of the entry process;
- Visitors to the U.S. report that they tell, on average, eight others about their travel experiences – good or bad – creating a multiplying effect to the potential impact of their experiences;
- One in three travelers thought that the U.S. is "falling behind other countries" or was even the "worst" they have ever seen in their Customs process;
- Forty-four percent of business travelers say that they will not visit in the next five years because of the entry process;
- Two-thirds of travelers said the U.S. would be a more attractive destination if Customs lines and wait times were shorter;
- Eighty-four percent believe the U.S. government could fix the process; and
- One in seven international travelers report that they have missed a connection because of delays at Customs, causing them to cancel hotel reservations, car rentals and other activities.
"CBP officers are hardworking public servants who deserve the resources necessary to process millions of overseas travelers," said Dow. "We are calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to immediately provide the resources necessary to efficiently process our nation's guests."
Consensus Research Group conducted the multicountry online survey among a total sample of 1,200 overseas travelers. Respondents in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China and Brazil were qualified on the basis of having traveled outside their countries during the past five years. Two hundred interviews were completed in each country, with samples weighted proportionately to each country's volume of visitors to the U.S. during the period January through October of 2012. Survey questionnaires were translated from English, with tabulation and analysis completed in the U.S. during the period from February 18 to March 1, 2013.
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