December 25, 2006

Bloomberg: (h/t GM)

For growing numbers of international business travelers, visa and customs regulations are making trips to the U.S. a thing of the past.

Companies say U.S. rules have become so onerous in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that it's often simpler to meet customers, business partners and employees elsewhere. [..]

Problems created by the entry requirements have become so evident that the man who initially helped enforce them -- Tom Ridge, the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security -- is now working with a business group to change them.

[..]The number of business travelers to the U.S. fell 10 percent in 2005 from the previous year, according to World Travel Market, a London-based trade-show group. The Discover America Partnership -- the group Ridge is working with, an organization of business executives working to improve America's image abroad -- says its survey of foreign travelers found that the U.S. entry process was rated the ``worst'' by a margin of more than two to one.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Travel Industry Association, says the situation ``is going to have disastrous implications'' for the U.S. economy unless changes are made. The National Foreign Trade Council says the entry rules cost U.S. businesses $31 billion in lost sales and higher expenses between 2002 and 2004.

[..]Starting Jan. 23, entry requirements will further tighten when everyone entering the U.S. by airplane from Canada, Mexico, South and Central America and the Caribbean will be required to present a passport.
Companies are pressing their case with the U.S. State Department. Visa regulations were a topic at a meeting Dec. 6 between Under Secretary for Management Henrietta Fore, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Maura Harty and executives from companies including Boeing Co., Walt Disney Co. and Marriott International Inc. Read full article here

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