U.S. Travel Says Visa Wait Times Stalling Arrivals

U.S. Travel Association has announced the Nov. 28 debut of their new campaign, #TheyWaitWeLose to highlight the fact that “outrageous wait times of more than 400 days for visitor visa applicants is delaying the recovery of the critically important international travel sector.”

The nonprofit advocacy organization says that U.S. visa wait times now average 400-plus days for first-time visitor visa applicants in the largest countries for inbound travel. Visa interview wait times for travelers from Brazil, India and Mexico are currently 317, 757 and 601 days, says the group.

According to their data, U.S. Travel says the country will lose up to 7 million potential visitors and $12 billion in projected spending in 2023 due to the wait times.

Inbound travel is projected to remain far below pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023—resulting in a loss of nearly 50 million visitors over the two years and $140 billion in inflation adjusted travel spending. This reflects a downgrade of 8 million visitors in 2022 and 2023 combined—and $28 billion in travel spending—from the June 2022 forecast.

“The forecast is further proof that the U.S. simply cannot afford to turn away high-spending international travelers,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman in a release. “While other economic factors may be out of our control, reducing visitor visa wait times is easily within the Biden administration’s reach if only they would make it a priority.”

The campaign will include a custom website, in English and other languages, to capture the perspectives of potential visitors as well as U.S. businesses.

It will also be featured on social media across multiple platforms using the hashtag #TheyWaitWeLose.

“A year ago, the images of planes and travelers headed to the U.S. were cause for celebration after nearly two years of border closures,” said Freeman. “Today, a full year since that joyful moment, a massive visa backlog has driven many of our potential visitors to go elsewhere. It’s a setback the Biden administration should be fully committed to solving.”

The organization has a list of solutions for government to solve the program which includes setting up “a dedicated process to provide faster visa processing for large tour groups, conventions and events taking place in the U.S.”

Key takeaway for planners: Inbound arrivals for meetings is one of the last remaining pieces of travel recovery essential for robust meetings. U.S. Travel’s campaign to expedite arrivals is an important component of getting attendees in from neighboring nations.

 PreCheck Worth Much More Than Sticker Price

two graphs showing how tsa precheck users feel about the program and how often tsa precheck users experience shorter lines

A new survey from FinanceBuzz says TSA PreCheck members would pay up to $224 for a membership, which is over twice the actual price ($78).

graph showing major reasons americans don't have tsa precheck

Other graphics associated with their survey say that 32% of members almost always experience shorter lines, and that 59% of those surveyed said that the only reason they don’t sign up is that they don’t fly enough to make the service pay.