2:00 P.M. EST
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center. We’re happy to have you here. It’s a very timely event, as the White House had a conference call this morning with the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce and representatives from the State Department to talk about this very initiative.
And so I’m delighted to have representatives from State and Commerce here: Brooke Moppert from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs; and Anastasia Xenias from the International Trade Administration and Foreign Commercial Services. So we’ll start with some opening comments from both. Brooke has a statement, Anastasia has a short presentation, and then we’ll continue with questions.
So again, thank you, and Brooke, please.
MS. MOPPERT: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Brooke Moppert. I’m a consular officer and visa analyst at the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Visa Services. I’m going to read a short prepared statement and then I’m happy to take your Q&A.
This morning, Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the Obama Administration’s National Tourism and Travel Strategy. This strategy delivers on President Obama’s call for a national strategy to promote both domestic and international tourism and travel opportunities throughout the United States.
The national strategy is a blueprint. It’s a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the United States, and it lays out concrete steps to reach the goal of attracting and welcoming a hundred million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. The Department of State plays a significant role in this strategy through our presence overseas at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. At our 222 visa processing posts, we have a dedicated core of highly-trained officers that issue U.S. visas. As journalists for the foreign media, some of you probably have some experience with this, with the I Visa process. This year, we expect to welcome more than 65 million tourists from all over the world to visit the U.S. We have no higher priority than the safety of our fellow citizens, so we have two missions: to keep America safe while welcoming visitors who grow the U.S. economy, create jobs, and build the people-to-people exchanges that promote security and understanding in a globalized world.
We want to put out the welcome mat. We want to put out the welcome mat for legitimate visitors to come and experience America. The best advertisement for America is America. From the Statue of Liberty, right in the backyard here of New York City, to the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, the Vegas Strip, we do have something special to offer a wide variety of visitors.
And in emerging markets for international travel, such as China and Brazil, where we have seen an explosive demand for visas, we have dramatically decreased our visa interview wait times. We have, at the same time, substantially increased our capacity to issue more visas. For example, in Brazil, we issued more than 555,000 visas in the first half of the fiscal year – Fiscal Year 2012 – compared to 350,000 visas in the same timeframe last year. That’s an increase of 59 percent. In China, consular officers issued more than 453,000 visas in the first half of the year compared to approximately 310,000 visas in the same timeframe in 2011. And that’s an increase of 46 percent.
Our new consular officers and diplomats and consular adjudicators are working very, very hard to expand visa processing capacity. We are making improvements to our facilities in key markets such as Mexico and India, and we’re investing in two new consulates in Brazil, as the President recently announced. We are streamlining the renewal process for low-risk return visitors. And by doing so, we are opening up visa interview appointments for first-time visitors that we’d like to attract.
And now with the announcement of the National Tourism and Travel Strategy, we’re moving beyond visas. We’re looking at ways to leverage our overseas presence and public diplomacy programs to welcome more visitors to America’s great destinations. We’re working closely with Brand USA, which is a public-private partnership charged with promoting travel to the United States, along with our partners in the travel industry to improve perceptions of the visa process and make sure that accurate information about that process is communicated to those who want to come here.
We want to send a positive message to welcome tourists from all over the world to come and visit America. And in doing that, we essentially are working to accomplish what the President set out for us in his January 19th speech, in which he said that America can maintain its border security while also welcoming visitors to improve the economy and to make sure that we have more and more opportunity to build jobs for Americans.
I’ll be happy to take your questions – answers afterwards.
MS. XENIAS: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Anastasia Xenias. I’m with the U.S. Department of Commerce in the International Trade Administration, U.S. Commercial Service. I am a senior international trade specialist in our New York City office, and I wear two hats, one of them being to serve presently as Global Travel and Tourism Team Leader within the Commercial Service, and I’d like to explain a little bit about what that means and then guide you a little through the data on travel and tourism and why we are very positive that we can meet the goal of 100 million visitors by 2021.
I’m very happy to be here with my colleague from the State Department, and we look forward to working with you going forward.
MS. MOPPERT: Absolutely.
MS. XENIAS: Okay. The President on January 19th, speaking at Disney World, said we can’t wait; we need a National Travel and Tourism Strategy now, and we need to expand various programs to develop international tourism as well as domestic tourism in the United States. One of those mandates was to increase visa processing in China and Brazil by 40 percent. And the two countries were specifically targeted because of their phenomenal growth of international arrivals and spending in the United States over the last few years.
Today, we met the challenge. Within the 90-day framework set out by the executive order, the Department of Commerce leading our interagency working group presented today the National Travel and Tourism Strategy. And if you don’t have a copy of the strategy, it can be accessed at the link on the bottom. The presentation will be available for everyone afterwards. Our objective, as my colleague stated, is to increase visitation, because with international visitors, we increase exports. And for us, the export is the spending of those travelers coming to the United States on U.S. carriers and spending in the United States in hotels, attractions, shopping, and various other activities.
Secretary Bryson, just a couple of weeks ago, announced the national tourism campaign of Brand USA, along with our colleagues at Brand USA, at International Pow Wow, a major travel and trade – travel tradeshow sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association. I don’t know how many of you had the opportunity to hear Secretary Bryson’s speech, and if we have time later, I’d be happy to play it for you.
The Brand USA logo was recently announced, and this is something that you’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future. Just by a show of hands, how many have already seen the Brand USA logo? No one. Okay. Well, I’m happy to present it to you today for the first time. Okay. I won’t go into very much detail on the Travel Promotion Act; I think everyone is familiar with it. It created the Corporation for Travel Promotion. But this Administration is very much behind the travel and tourism industry, identified not just by the executive order but as a target industry within the National Export Initiative, which was announced two years ago. So multiple channels of support for the travel and tourism industry, and for very real reasons.
The travel and tourism sector is our largest service export. There’s a small typo on my presentation. Our exports of travel and tourism were $153 billion in 2011, not 134, which represents 2010 numbers. It is the third-largest sector of exports overall, including all goods exports. And it supports 1.2 million jobs in the United States. So it’s very important for us, and it’s gotten tremendous support by the Administration.
I know that you all are from foreign countries, so this is not something we promote, but I thought you might want to know – when Americans travel, where do they go? And this is the breakdown for 2011: Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia taking the lion’s share of U.S. visitors. Twenty-eight million Americans traveled overseas last year. That means we have had a surplus of travel and tourism in the United States, not just last year but over the last 20 years.
This is just some internal information. There are two agencies within the Commerce Department that are involved in travel and tourism. One is our Office of Travel and Tourism, industries in Washington that prepares all of our data that you’ll be seeing today, and the Commercial Service, which is my agency, with offices throughout the United States and around the world. And our mission is strictly to promote U.S. exports from all industries, including travel and tourism.
In that capacity, we work with a private sector group, a group of entities called the Visit USA Committees. These are the airlines, hotels, tour operators in each foreign country that sell the United States, sell tours to the United States. And we work very closely with them on programs and promotional activities.
Okay. Just a few notes in the data: Visitor spending as well as arrivals – you will see that the two correspond; the more visitors we have, the more spending we will have. And we’ve had two dips in the past 20 years or so, one after 9/11 and one during the recent economic crisis. But we’re looking at full speed ahead going forward. And this is a month-by-month picture of spending in the United States. On any given month, we can expect about $12-13 billion in international visitor spending in the U.S. as a whole.
This is growth patterns by region, and I have each region highlighted in the following slides so that you could see where your countries are. The largest growth rate has come from South America, really driven by Brazilian arrivals, and our largest markets are from Western Europe, although growth rates are small.
This is so far, year to date in 2012, the first couple of months. And you can see very strong arrival growth patterns already this year, and we’re not even close to the middle of the year yet, so we’re confident that we can reach the hundred million dollar – hundred million visitor mark.
These are some of our major markets, and in the little stars, you can see what the growth patterns are as you also see the number of arrivals. Hands down, the largest number of arrivals is from Canada. Without question, the largest growth rate is coming from China at a rate of about 36 percent last year.
And this is a picture of foreign receipts from individual countries, and you’ll see that Canada is number one. Japan is number two. So that even though we’re hosting fewer visitors from Japan, they’re spending more money, apparently, and China coming into the top 10 in spending and arrivals for the first time in the last couple of years.
Looking at individual regions, and maybe you can find your countries here, this is year to date. So we have data from January and February, and you see some very strong arrivals from Europe and some declines. This is from Eastern Europe. I think we have it reported from Romania; am I right? From Asia, 40 percent so far from China. From the Middle East; from South America; Central America; Africa; Caribbean; and that’s all.
Am I doing okay on time?
MS. XENIAS: Okay. What our data shows is not just how many people are coming and arrivals. We also show what they like to do. And this is China and Brazil specifically, and we can talk about that later. We have a survey of international travelers that’s distributed at U.S. airports with our airline partners. And travelers that have come to the U.S. fill this out, and this gives us an insight on not just how many are coming and how much they’re spending, but also what they like to do when they’re here, how long they take to decide on coming to the United States, how many states they visit, and how many days they stay, and how old they are and what their income levels are.
And I just picked China and Brazil because, again, they’re the two largest growth markets as well as being the countries highlighted in the executive order. You can see that these are wealthy individuals from both countries coming.
Okay. I won’t talk too much about our forecast except to show you this was our latest forecast, released a couple of weeks ago, and it shows 76 million arrivals by 2016, and you can see that’s on track for the 100 million.
For some of the representatives here, I do have profiles of why we think we’ll see growth from your countries, and I can give that to you later.
And I am just going to close with a couple of activities that the Commercial Service does. We support trade shows. We bring delegations to trade shows in the United States, especially to International Pow Wow. We brought delegations from over 30 countries this year, representing over a thousand foreign tour operators and press. We do single destination promotions in countries all over the world. We make introductions for American destinations, hotels, suppliers of all kinds, receptive tour operators with outbound tour operators in market – in Brazil or in China or wherever they may want to find partnerships.
And we have promotional activities going on all the time. This year, we’ll be doing approximately 40 promotional activities around the world with our global team. And this is our team here, taken at Pow Wow – Secretary Bryson is right there in the middle – a total of 140 individuals across the United States and in 70 countries. We can introduce companies to all sorts of partners.
Here are just some examples of promotions we have done recently, one in the Czech Republic where we took a booth at a local trade show; one in India, again, a booth at a local trade show to present U.S. destinations and suppliers without them having to travel; in Denmark; in Italy; and in China at the China Golf Show; and in Brazil. So there’s a lot we do, and we hope to do more with our partners as well as individually.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. That was very informative. It’s question time, so if you have a question, please raise your hand. State your name and organization for the presenters and we’ll continue on.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Verena Fornetti. I’m from Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brooke, you just mentioned that there is the possibility of eliminating the step of interview even for first-time visitors. Is this already happening? Is this a plan? Could you explain maybe a little bit better?
MS. MOPPERT: Sure.
QUESTION: And there’s another question, please. Earlier today during the press conference, the White House press conference, there was a statement that we know that Brasilia – Brazil is being considered in the Visa Waiver Program, but that was sad that there are still some steps that Brazil should take until it happens. I would like to know what are these steps, exactly?
MS. MOPPERT: I think I’ll start with the last question first, on the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program is set in law, and it is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. They have jurisdiction over the Visa Waiver Program. The Department of State plays a role in that. The Department of State is able to nominate a country provided that it meets certain requirements.
For the very, very specific technical requirements, I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, but they do involve a – as the Visa Waiver Program requirements currently stand, a visa refusal rate for the nationals of that country to be under 3 percent. And they also require passports to be of a certain standard as well as the country to have entered into information-sharing requirements with the United States. But I would strongly encourage you to go to the Department of Homeland Security. They will walk you through the – in much greater detail precisely what it is that Brazil needs to do.
But I would note that the President, when President Rousseff visited the United States, did commit to working with Brazil in order to help to guide that process along. And so we certainly look forward to working with our Brazilian partners on the Visa Waiver Program.
And the other question on the waivers of interviews, that refers to a pilot program that we initiated shortly after the President made the announcement in January. There are two components of it. One component is a worldwide component, and the other component is specific to Brazil. But this pilot program essentially involves a consular officer’s ability to waive in-person interviews for certain qualified individuals. The vast majority of individuals who would be eligible for this program are ones that are renewing their visas, specifically those renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa.
Brazil, for some, again, qualified first-time applicants, these applicants have to be either under the age of 16 or ages 66 and older. And so this is, again, a pilot program that we’re looking at to be able to streamline our visa process without compromising in any respect our commitment to maintaining border security.
QUESTION: Could you just explain which one of those – my name is Asaf Selinger. I come from the Israeli Broadcasting Authority. Just one question regarding – what is the global component? What is the Brazilian component?
MS. MOPPERT: The global component is that 48-month component that I spoke about. So individual – certain qualified individuals – and this is not necessarily a program that’s implemented in every country, but it is implemented in some of our largest processing posts, as we call them – for example, Brazil and in China, and very soon in Mexico and places like Russia as well.
The objective of the program – let me be clear – is to streamline our process. In certain countries, that’s certainly – it may not actually streamline the process at all, especially where interview wait times are very, very, very low. What we’re trying to do – our objective here is we’re trying to look at – focus our resources as well as the resources of – or rather, we’re trying to ensure that as many applicants as possible – because our law requires, for the most part, interviews for first-time applicants, we are ensuring that we focus our resources on those that might present more of a risk. But for applicants that we’ve already interviewed – we’ve already looked at, we’ve already reviewed their applications, they’ve already been through the process, and they have been determined as travelers who are considered low-risk – they may find themselves qualified to be able to be eligible for this program. But it is a country-by-country basis.
QUESTION: My name is Emily Hey, and I’m with the Nikkei newspaper, and I have a question about Japan. Based on your presentation, Japan provides the second-largest number of dollars for the United States economy, but it’s a pretty small percentage of tourists, and I’m wondering whether or not you have any programs to increase tourism from Japan.
MS. XENIAS: It’s actually not a very small percentage of tourists. Japan has been for a number of years and still is one of our largest inbound markets, actually. International – in terms of overseas travelers, meaning outside of Canada and Mexico, it is the third-largest market. The growth rate has been declining for a few years. Japan reached its peak of arrivals in the mid-1990s, but it’s still a very important, very large market. And yes, we work very closely with the Visit USA Committee in Japan to promote travel to the U.S.
QUESTION: My name is Yilber Vega from RNC TV of Colombia and NTN-24. Recently, the President Obama announced the extension of the length of business for Colombians for – from five to 10 years. Is there any plan to do that with any other South American or Latino countries, to extend the length of visas?
MS. MOPPERT: It’s a great question. And that gets into something else that is enshrined in U.S. law, and that is the subject of reciprocity. Essentially, what – how reciprocity works is that we accord visas for the length of time that another government will accord U.S. citizens U.S. visas. If there are certain travel benefits that another country will accord U.S. citizens, then we do our best to try to reciprocate that within U.S. law. So that’s kind of a process of negotiation. I certainly wouldn’t be at liberty now to be able to tell you precisely where we are on a per country basis, but that’s usually a bilateral negotiation.
QUESTION: Hi. I’m Qian from China, Sina.com. I saw the data about the visas (inaudible) number, and the lowest level is in 2003, I think.
MS. XENIAS: For China or in total?
QUESTION: Total. And is that because of the 9/11 effect? Because I think it is lower than in during the economic crisis, like in 2007-2008. What’s the reason? Do you have any analysis about that?
MS. XENIAS: Yes, we had a significant drop in arrivals after 9/11, which rebounded starting in 2003-2004 and then continued increasing until the recent global financial crisis, took another dip, and then started an upward trajectory again. In addition, in 2001, there were economic crises in a number of countries around the world, but 9/11 certainly was an important factor.
QUESTION: I’m Tom Deptula. I’m from Polish Newsweek, and I got two questions. The first one is related to the Visa Waiver Program. And as you probably know, Poland is one of a very few European Union states that it’s still not on this program. And what do you do to expand this program, and why some countries were admitted to this program with 10 percent threshold and, like, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania? And what is this Administration position toward the JOLT Act, which is right now in the Senate?
And the second question is about the image of the United States. After 9/11, the security control was tightened very, very, very highly, and people who will want to travel to this country have to report to a consulate and talk to a consulate and then they get fingerprinted at the airport, at the port of entry. So what do you – what do you do to soften this image?
MS. MOPPERT: I’ll begin with the question on the visa waiver program. First of all, we’re working with our foreign partners to put more countries on the path to membership. As the current law stands, the requirements are quite strict, but that’s why – and that’s what keeps the program secure. Many countries are making the investments that are needed – (inaudible) investments needed to put them on the path to eligibility.
As for the – I’m not aware that the nine countries that were admitted – nine more countries that were added in 2008 were outside the perimeters of the existing law, or entered into the program outside those parameters, but I do know that certainly our relationship with Poland remains one that is quite strong. I can’t comment specifically on any pending legislation, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you one way or the other on anything regarding the JOLT Act, but I do want to reiterate that all 36 participants of the Visa Waiver Program do have to undergo a series of agreements in order to have entered into the program, including Taiwan, which was recently nominated by the Secretary of State for designation and is currently undergoing the process for inclusion and designation by the Department of Homeland Security.
MS. XENIAS: If I could just interject on that regarding travel to the U.S. and the image following 9/11, I’d like to refer you back to my first slide, where you’ll see a large upward trajectory in the last 10 years or so. And it can only get better.
MS. MOPPERT: That’s right. I – actually, that’s a great opportunity to talk a little bit about our understanding of the quandary that you presented. And that’s one of the reasons that the national tourism strategy puts such a focus on not only streamlining these application entry processes to make it easier and – or more accessible for international travelers to come into the United States, but also to improve the overall image of America as a destination. That’s why we’re making an investment, not only through the cooperation of our – of all the federal agencies in the U.S. Government, including my colleagues from the Department of Commerce who are leading this effort, but also with Brand USA, a public-private partnership that, as my colleague noted, stemmed out of the Travel Promotion Act and has now launched its campaign in Japan, Canada, and the UK.
And we’ll be reaching out to a number of other countries. This – these are the types of initiatives that our government, the United States Government, is taking to – I wouldn’t necessarily say turn around because there had been an upward trajectory, but to certainly improve the international traveler’s perception of what America is.
MODERATOR: And just as a reminder for our colleagues in Washington, if you have a question, just go to the podium and I will call on you.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Kinue Weinstein, working for New York Seikatsu. It’s a Japanese newspaper. I have two questions. One, it’s – you – about streamlining tourist visa process. And you mentioned that it’s bilateral with each country. Does it mean that you make it bilateral in terms of process for price and waiting time? For example, one country charges $50 for visa, waiting one week time, and a number of papers that they have to submit. Do you do exactly the same way or by negotiating?
And my second question is: How many Japanese were refused for tourist visa last year?
MS. MOPPERT: And thank you for bringing – giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit more about how to streamline the visa – how we’re streamlining the visa application process. I believe that the vast majority of Japanese applicants were issued visas last year, but I don’t have a specific figure for you. I can certainly get back to you on that.
What I’d like to do is actually take everyone here through some of the ways that the Department of State is streamlining the visa application process, which is pretty much standard worldwide. It’s not different, necessarily, for individual countries. When I’ve talked about bilateral processes, I was talking about specifically how we set visa validity, which is kind of country by country. But let me go through it, and that can give you all a little bit more information about what we are doing.
The overall fact of the matter is that it is easy to get a U.S. visa. The vast majority of individuals who apply for U.S. visas obtain them. And at 90 percent of our posts – not the applicants, which is something mentioned in the executive order, but at our embassies and consulates – you can get an interview in less than 10 days. Part of our success so far in places like Mexico and Brazil and China is the Administration’s commitment to streamlining this process.
So what we’re doing, well, we’re adding staff. We are doubling our staff, essentially, in Brazil and China in order – and we’re sending temporary staff during our typically busy summer season so that we can process an increasing number of visas and increase our capacity. We’re looking at how to make our operations more efficient for the non-adjudication, non-interview part of the visa process.
In about 50-plus percent of our embassies and consulates throughout the world, we’ve implemented a worldwide strategy to outsource some of these functions such as submitting your documents or giving fingerprints. That creates extra room in our embassies and consulates so that we can put more officers in the window to interview more people. It also makes the process a little bit easier. In fact, it might even lessen the cost of getting a visa in some countries because applicants before would have to pay to make an appointment, they might have to pay to get their documents delivered. Under this new system, that’s not the case. You pay one fee and then you have all those services included. So we are looking at ways to make our process a little bit more straightforward and accessible to applicants.
We’re also expanding our facilities, particularly in China and Brazil, where we’re investing millions of dollars not only to build two new consulates in Brazil but also to expand existing ones in China. In fact, I believe we’re just about to open or perhaps we already have opened our old consular section in Beijing to process visa applications. We refurbished it and we’re actually going to be sending applicants through that one. So now we have two consular sections. That means hundreds, thousands more applicants that we can see every day in order to meet the requirements of our laws and the safety standards that are so important to us.
We are planning ahead. We’re using data from our colleagues in the Department of Commerce and we’re using data from the travel industry to look at potential future growth markets and to make the adjustments that we need to now rather than at the time that the growth is actually happening to make sure that we are on top of potential demand and that we can still, again, comply with the laws that exist while also making sure that we do everything possible to encourage travel and tourism to the U.S. So that’s some of the things that we’re doing to try to make the process a little bit more accessible.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Sezai Kalayci and I work for Turkish newspaper – name is Zaman. I am wondering who is coming from my country. They were complaining before about the visa process, but not anymore so much. I mean not –
MS. MOPPERT: What country are you from? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Turkey. Turkey.
MS. MOPPERT: Turkey. Okay.
QUESTION: They are not complaining anymore so much as much as before. And now they still complain about the security issue in airport. Are you going to do anything for this little and tiny problem of the security in the airport?
MS. MOPPERT: Well, I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, who oversees security operations in the airports. I wouldn’t be able to comment on that. But I do know that they are doing a considerable amount to try to reduce the amount of time that individuals are waiting in the immigration lines. For specifics on that, I would definitely ask them. But they have a number of programs that they’re instituting, and they’re trying to enter into other agreements with other countries so that the immigration process is more streamlined.
QUESTION: Hi, this is Qimei from Sina.com, China. I have two questions. One is regarding the investment that you mentioned about. Can you give us a idea like how much money that invest overseas? Like for example you mentioned the renovation of consulate embassies overseas, or how much money you put domestically.
And second question is that for the region that U.S. – which considered to be primary destination for foreign visitors, can you give us, like New York or Los Angeles, do you any – do you guys pay specific attention to other region, or either any successful or going on example that you guys can give us regarding federal level on coordination with the locals – local government, I guess, in state level?
MS. XENIAS: We promote exports from all states and all regions of the United States, and our global travel and tourism team has members all over the country. In Alabama, for example, one of our members is leading our golf initiative to attract more Chinese and European golfers to golf resorts in the United States, which are all over the country but heavily focused in the southern part of the U.S. as well as California, Hawaii, and some of our territories like Guam and Puerto Rico.
We help to bring familiarization tours to various cities around the country, not only New York and Los Angeles but also places like Phoenix, Arizona and Detroit, Michigan. So we support the whole United States. And the whole purpose of Brand USA is not to market each destination or each country or each state individually as we do in and as we hope the states to do, but the country as a whole, as a unit. So yes, we help to promote tourism all over the U.S.
MS. XENIAS: What do you mean, examples?
QUESTION: Like either any – sorry. I’m just wondering if there is any going on program that you guys coordinate with specific state at this level, or it’s just on the stage of planning and not started?
MS. XENIAS: Well, many of our states have tourism promotion offices, so several participate in our programs around the world, such as our shows in Brazil and in Italy and in India as well as Denmark, Croatia, everywhere. It’s up to the states to choose to participate, and the cities and destinations to choose to participate. We reach out to them, but ultimately it’s their individual decision, as it is the decision of suppliers such as specific hotel groups, resorts, cities, et cetera. We simply create the events
MS. MOPPERT: Yeah. We are spending about $18 million in China to upgrade our – or expand or upgrade our facilities.
QUESTION: Hou Minggu with China Central Television. I’m interested in the, like, comparison between the visitors from China and Brazil. Can you go back to the slide to make a very short comment? What does the – in terms of travel business? Thank you.
MS. XENIAS: Okay. Let’s find it. Okay. This is directly from our country profiles that we developed through our surveyor of international travelers. And the full country profiles are available on our websites. Looking very briefly at a comparison between China and Brazil, we’ll see that Brazilians take on average a longer time to plan their trip then do Chinese travelers. That may be a surprise, I think, for some operators in the United States.
China and Brazil equally do not seem to have a preference for a prepaid package. About 14 percent buy prepaid packages in each country. It’s the first international trip for 40 percent of Chinese visitors to the U.S., whereas Brazilians have tended to have visited the United States more than once already.
The Chinese stay a lot longer than Brazilians and they visit approximately the same number of states, with the Chinese having slightly stronger preference for visiting more than one state. They – it’s a long flight. They come here, they want to see as much of America as they can. Brazilians, a little bit less so. And that’s shown on the bottom with average number of states visited.
We see that both Chinese and Brazilian visitors to the United States are affluent. The average income of Chinese travelers is $67,000. That’s a mean number, meaning on average. The median is $44,000. This is a very affluent class in China, and the same for Brazil.
In average age, these are relatively young professionals in I guess we would call it a yuppie class. Chinese tend to stay a lot more in hotels, given that they stay a lot longer in the United States. And it’s overwhelmingly male coming from China, whereas Brazilians is a little bit more male than female, but about half and half.
And there’s more. If you’d like more, I can tell you where to go.
QUESTION: Perhaps a question about how could – can you attribute some of this increase to the depreciation of the dollar facing other currencies in the world? I mean, we know that usually depreciated currency is good for exports. Is this the case as well for tourism?
MS. XENIAS: Yes. As a matter of fact, we know that specifically with Western Europe and Japan, the value of the dollar against the yen and the euro has had a tremendous positive impact in terms of arrivals. Currency values are one of the elements that go into our forecasts of arrivals as well as spending, and that’s one the ways that we determine how much we can expect from the future, is looking at currency.
QUESTION: Hi. So in January there was the announce that you intend that show increasing 40 percent the capacity of processing visas in Brazil. Do you already have a number of how much of this increase was reached?
MS. MOPPERT: You mean where we are --
MS. MOPPERT: -- with moving towards the executive order? We’re well on our way. I think just the statistics I provided in my opening statement is proof positive that we are accommodating a steadily rising number. We’ve processed – or pardon me – we issued 46 percent more visas in the first six months of the fiscal year of – Fiscal Year 2012 than we did in the first six months of Fiscal Year 2011. We --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MS. MOPPERT: Sure. Sure. It was – you’re – pardon me, you’re right, 59. I’m getting my own statistics backwards. In Brazil it was 59 percent more visas issued. And in terms of the total number actually processed, everyone who came in, 58 percent more applicants were seen by the consulates and the Embassy in Brazil than in the first six months of Fiscal Year 2011. So we are handling exceptional numbers of applicants, and we’re accommodating them, and we’re doing that through some of the steps I outlined, by streamlining our process, adding more staff, expanding our facilities, which we’re all doing – excuse me – doing in Brazil.
The other part of the executive order was the President had directed us to ensure that 80 percent of these applicants worldwide are seen for an interview within three weeks, and we’re well on our way to doing that, too. Our latest figures indicate that well over 75 percent, at this point, applicants worldwide are seen for an interview in three weeks. Not only do we want to meet the 80 percent goal, we want to exceed it. So we are working and we’re continuing to follow our plan that the President set forth for us with those goals that he set forth for us to achieve that.
QUESTION: Hi. I’m Qian. I want to ask one quick following question. It’s about the – you mentioned that you want attract 100 million visitors by the end of 2021. And do you have any, like, budget about how much money you will invest to achieve that goal during this period, the total number of the investment? Do you have? I mean, how much money you’re going to spend during the time zone to achieve that goal? Maybe you will spending the (inaudible) everything. Do you have any budget or --
MS. MOPPERT: I’m not aware --
MS. XENIAS: Brand USA.
MS. MOPPERT: Yeah. There’s Brand USA, which has a budget that it – millions of dollars that it is using to plan to attract that many visitors. I would say that we’re going to continue to invest tens of millions, if not eventually, by 2021, hundreds of millions of dollars in order to achieve the goal. Do I – I think we want to put a specific figure on that right now? Probably not, because that’s going to be an ongoing investment that the President has committed the U.S. Government to making on an ongoing basis.
MS. XENIAS: I would say that most of the dollars, specific dollars of investment, are going to come through our private-public sector partner, the Corporation for Travel Promotion or Brand USA. That’s where I would be looking for the spending. The allocation is for a two-for-one match between money that has been collected from ESTA fees and industry contributions. So it’s very much a public sector, private sector partnership. We are not aware – at least I’m not – of any tax dollars that will be allocated.
MS. MOPPERT: Correct.
MODERATOR: Any last questions, New York or Washington?
Okay. Well, with that, we thank you so much for your participation today. There will be a transcript, audio available and also Commerce’s – oh, Washington, I still see if you want to head up.
MODERATOR: Sorry. We’re waiting for the one-on-one. We’ll finish –
MODERATOR: No problem. Stay on the line. No problem. We’ll see you.
MODERATOR: And Anastasia’s presentation will be available as well. So thank you again.
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