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USA: New Strategy to Support Inbound Medical Tourism

USA: New Strategy to Support Inbound Medical Tourism

Friday May 25, 2012

The first ever national strategy to promote all forms of inbound tourism to the USA, and make it quicker and easier for people to enter the USA as visitors, will help US hospitals promote inbound medical tourism, and may even get people to think twice before looking overseas.

The National Travel and Tourism Strategy promises federal support for travel in a way never before seen in the U.S. The strategy mandates the creation of a National Travel and Tourism Office within the Commerce Department. It also sets an ambitious goal of attracting 100 million foreign visitors annually to the USA by 2021, up from 60 million in 2011.

The new National Travel and Tourism Office gives the industry a major platform for influencing policies across the federal government. The office will be the central driving force for travel and tourism policy in the federal government.

The strategy includes more steps to ease entry for foreign visitors; a promise to better coordinate federal programs that affect tourism, and government support for travel-related research.

Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association comments, “The travel industry is very, very excited about this. A national strategy is finally here, and we have been talking about it for 16 years.” Tony Gonchar of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) adds, “It acknowledges the role travel agents play in driving international visitors to the United States. I am pleased to hear the White House’s promise to work more closely with private-sector entities and trade associations in policy development.”

The new strategy recognizes the travel industry’s importance to economic growth and job creation. Travel and tourism contributes $125 billion in service exports to the economy, making it the leading service sector contributor to the balance of trade.

The strategy sets forth an ambitious goal of making the USA the world’s top travel destination by the end of 2021. If it succeeds in attracting 100 million international visitors annually, they would spend an estimated $250 billion.

The strategy also includes the first ever promotion to encourage Americans to travel across the states, and this could give a new impetus to domestic medical tourism.

The 10-year five areas of focus are:

  • Promoting the United States by capitalizing on the growing demand for travel and tourism in the USA, creating a positive and welcoming message for international visitors.
  • Enabling and enhancing travel and tourism to and within the United States by working to reduce institutional barriers to the free flow of trade in travel services; expanding the Visa Waiver Program; enhancing U.S. visa processing; expanding trusted traveller programmes and expediting screening initiatives; and improving the processes for arrival and aviation security screening initiatives.
  • Providing world-class customer service and visitor experiences that will inspire repeat visitation and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Coordinating across government to prioritize its support for travel and tourism, better coordinate Federal policies and programs, engage more deliberately with partners, encourage coordinated Federal participation in public-private tourism collaborations and establish a national travel and tourism office to provide leadership and focus within the federal government.
  • Conducting research and measuring results to ensure continual progress on the important goals and strategies outlined in this National Strategy.

In key growth markets for international travel, such as China and Brazil, visa interview wait times have already dramatically decreased. The Department of State is making improvements to existing facilities in key markets such as Mexico and India and investing in two new consulates in Brazil. A new pilot programme for first-time visitors to the United States is streamlining the visa renewal process for certain low-risk, previously interviewed visa applicants.

In addition to efforts to streamline the visa process, the Department of State will continue to work closely with Brand USA, the public-private partnership charged with promoting travel to the United States.

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Tags: medical tourism, USA, hospitals, visa, international patients

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