A recent study from Morning Consult found that three out of five travelers from Brazil, India, and Mexico would vacation somewhere other than the United States if forced to wait more than a year for a U.S. visa – which could hurt the economy.
Tourism is one of the United States’ most prominent industries, but visa delays are damaging this revenue stream. An estimated 6.6 million tourists could be kept from visiting the U.S. in 2023, resulting in a loss of almost $11.6 billion. For Brazil, India, and Mexico, visa wait times are 317 days, 757 days, and 601 days, respectively. These delays are essentially equivalent to a travel ban in terms of their effects, and discouraging travelers from just those three countries will cost the economy a projected $5 billion in lost spending next year.
Increasing tourism can only benefit the American economy and international relations, says Geoff Freeman of Fortune Magazine. With a recession looming, increased economic activity through tourism may be just what we need to stay afloat. International traveler spending still isn't forecasted to recover entirely until 2025, and extensive visa processes will impede that recovery process. Not only will the airline industry suffer, Freeman adds, but small businesses such as bed and breakfasts, local shops, and restaurants will all feel the effects of decreased tourism.
The visa issues, the U.S. Department of State reports, are due to staffing issues caused by the pandemic. Freeman recommends that the Biden administration tackle this issue by prioritizing visitors from Brazil, India, and Mexico, which provide the most tourism for the U.S. This could be achieved by an executive order that mimics one by former President Barak Obama, which processed 80% of visas within 21 days.
However, with other problems at the forefront of the Biden administration's attention, Freeman says that we could have a hard time meeting the goal set by the Commerce Department's National Travel and Tourist Strategy to bring in 90 million international visitors by 2027.