State, County Stand to Benefit From International Travel
President Obama traveled to Disney World last week to issue an executive order that he hopes will help America become the world’s top travel destination.
Among other things, the executive order seeks to boost tourist visa processing in China and Brazil, promote national parks and add business executives to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
Not surprisingly, the move was applauded by the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.
“We’ve been actively positioning North Carolina as a preferred international destination for 20 years,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco says. “Attracting international visitors to North Carolina is very important because they tend to stay longer and spend more of their money at North Carolina businesses.”
The president’s initiative includes adding Charlotte Douglas International Airport to the Global Entry program, which allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.
The airport ranks seventh in the world in takeoffs and landings, and has nonstop service from more than 30 international cities.
“These efforts to make it easier for international visitors to get here will have a positive impact on North Carolina’s economy because their spending supports jobs and adds to tax revenues in the state,” says Lynn Minges, assistant secretary of tourism, marketing and global branding under Crisco.
Coinciding with last week’s announcement, Linda Carlisle, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, was sworn in as one of 32 members of the aforementioned national tourism board. The board advises the U.S. secretary of commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry.
Drilling down even further, we turn to Caleb Miles, president and CEO of the Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Tourism is about a $360 million industry in Moore County, so Miles views the news through two lenses.
“On the national level, it makes it easier for people from other countries to visit,” Miles says. “It’s a bit cumbersome right now. On the local level, it’s difficult to know exactly what the impact will be because we don’t have a process that identifies point of origin.”
Miles notes that only 3 to 4 percent of total tourism in North Carolina comes from international travelers.
“When we’ve done studies in the past, international travel has never been more than 5 percent in Moore County,” he says. “So, I don’t see it hitting double digits in the foreseeable future. The biggest reason is that we don’t have an airport here that services that sector.”
Miles believes the executive order is “good news.”
“But you have to be pragmatic and realistic about what will happen,” he says. “There’s definitely a payoff if you can get international visitors. The greatest growth potential in the next decade is China, especially if their government changes its visa standards.”
In the meantime, Miles is anxious to see more details.
“We need everything the president has proposed to best determine how it applies in our market,” he says. “We want to leverage this news however we can.”
Here’s hoping Miles can put the information to good use.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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