Monday, July 09, 2007

Brent's Travelogue

I am glad to be back home in Texas.
Nevada is an interesting place to visit, but living in an oven is not my ideal for quality of life.
We unloaded the car about three minutes before a Texas dew hit, and I nearly walked out into the yard for a thorough soaking and cooling, nature’s way.

I see the general nuttiness in the world didn’t ease up while out of town…

Former Bush-bashing neighbor Cindy Sheehan is reportedly considering competing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…I think the role of Wicked Witch of the West was filled a few years ago when the Wizard of Oz was first filmed…

Presidential wannabe Rudy Giuliani says the present tax structure in America is necessary for our economy to operate…and commented over the weekend he’s not in favor of a flat tax. Wonder if Steve Forbes will be re-thinking his endorsement of Hizzoner.

An AP story that ran last week during the holiday noted that the US has lost billions of dollars—and an immeasurable amount of good will since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks nearly six years ago—because of a decline in foreign tourists.

Visits to the United States from countries outside of Canada and Mexico totaled 21.7 million in 2006, down 17% from a peak of 26 million in 2000, according to Commerce Department figures. Meanwhile, cross-border travel around the rest of the world was up 20%. People are going places, just not here.

Several senators are now trying to get the government involved in bringing those visitors back.
I’ll tell you the first place to start: The stinking security lines at the airports.

I get mad everytime I have to go through one of those ridiculous charades. No other country on earth makes you go to the ridiculous extremes you must endure to fly in the US. No wonder foreign tourists have stopped coming.

Okay, so we don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for folks from parts of the world where the people really hate us. Too bad if you look like one of them.

But I don’t, and my bride doesn’t sport a burqa when she travels, so I really have a hard time swallowing the stupid routines that are required when flying. That’s why I’d rather drive up to four hours in any direction—it’s just less hassle than flying there.

The Senate Commerce Committee wants to establish a nonprofit public-private corporation to promote the United States as a tourist destination, and create a new office in the Commerce Department to work with other agencies on fixing visa policies and entry processes that discourage visits.

This could be a colossal waste of our tax dollars.

Oxford Economics says the 17% drop in visits since 2000 has cost the United States $100 billion in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs, and $16 billion in lost tax receipts. The United States is the only global destination without an ongoing program to promote itself.

Greece spends $150 million a year, Australia $113 million and Britain $90 million. It would be best if any increased advertising about the wonders of Broadway or the Grand Canyon be accompanied by changes in the visa and entry systems that keep people away.

Ever since that moron from Britain, Richard Reid, tried to light his Nike on a flight from Paris to Miami, you’ve got to pad about the airport in your stocking feet if you’re flying from Houston to Dallas. Reid’s getting three squares a day, no death and no taxes, and we’re all shucking shoes, belts, hats and coats, like lemmings in line at the airport.

The Discover America Partnership says 70% of foreign visitors have a great experience in the USA, once they get beyond the airport. 745 return from visits with favorable views.
The Oxford study recommends expanding the visa waiver program, and applying the $10 visa waiver fee to promotion and entry security improvements--like hiring more border and customs officers—to increase overseas travel to this country.

If we could boost that by nearly 1.6 million visitors a year, we’d yield $8 billion in new visitor spending and $850 million in federal tax revenue.

And maybe we could keep our shoes on.

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