12:30 p.m. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we are pleased to have a briefing on global economic statecraft, and international travel and tourism. And our guests today: our first speaker will be Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary of State, who will lead off the briefing and present a video by Secretary Clinton. Our other speakers are Kenneth Hyatt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Budget, and Management at the Department of Interior. They will also make comments, and then it will be open for question and answers.
And without further ado, Deputy Secretary Nides.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Thank you all very much. Why don’t we – before I begin, why don’t I – there’s a quick video that I would like to show you that’s the kicking off the Economic Statecraft Day from Secretary Clinton. So why don’t we go ahead and go – of course, we don’t have any audio, so she sounds much better than this. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: We’ll get that fixed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Via video.) (In progress.) So to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we needed to start thinking differently. So last fall, I announced the State Department’s ambitious economic statecraft agenda, which is putting our diplomacy to work to strengthen our economy at home and produce real results for the American people by harnessing the forces of global economics to strengthen our diplomacy abroad.
We have to position ourselves to lead in a world where security and prosperity are shaped in boardrooms and on trading floors as well as battlefields or diplomatic negotiations. That’s why I’m pleased to announce a new initiative called Global Economic Statecraft Day.
On June 14th, American embassies and consulates around the world will host events that highlight our economic statecraft agenda to help create American jobs, and to strengthen our shared economic future. Businesses, governments, and civil society leaders will come together to find new ways to invest and to work together – whether through a public dialogue, a partnership announcement, or a meeting to discuss export opportunities. We’re sending the message to people in every region that the United States is open for business and tourism. And we have the economic tools to create new jobs and expand trade and investment at home and abroad.
Our diplomatic efforts are producing real returns for the American people and helping to build a more prosperous future for our economic partners.
I want to thank President Obama for his support and leadership. And I want to thank all of our diplomats and development experts around the world who are out there every day supporting America’s economic renewal and laying the foundations for sustained global prosperity.
I look forward to hearing about the concrete new ideas that come out of the Global Economic Statecraft Day, and I hope that this one day helps to spur results for years to come.
Thank you very much. (End video.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Well, thank you all very much and appreciated for those of you coming and those who are listening on in New York.
As Secretary Clinton mentioned, tomorrow is Economic Statecraft Day, for those of you who wonder what that might be, and every embassy in the world will be doing events to basically amplify the message, which is where the State Department plays in the world of economics. As I like to say, we have a dual agenda: peace and prosperity. And this is the prosperity part of our agenda, and we’re going to be emphasizing that and really working towards making sure that all of our tools that we have at our disposal within the State Department are used to promote jobs here at home, support the President’s Export Initiative – as you know, to double exports in five years – as well as encourage foreign countries to invest in the United States with – working with the Commerce Department in a select USA programs. So together, along with my colleagues at the Commerce, we are – and Interior – are working collectively together on a very aggressive economic statecraft agenda. And I wanted to spend just a minute talking about one part of that agenda, which is tourism.
As you know, we have spent an enormous amount of time since President Obama got elected – and certainly one of the clear drivers of job growth here in the United States that we can control is obviously tourism here in the United States. As it’s been noted, that for every 65 tourists who come to the United States, it generates one U.S. job. Now there’s a direct correlation here, and so clearly, it’s up to us to make sure we amplify that and make it as easy as possible for individuals who want to come to the United States to do so, at the same time making sure that we have the people who want to come here for all the right reasons are allowed to come here and continue to secure our country in the meantime.
As you know, tourists spent about $13 billion in the United States in February of 2011 alone – 13 billion in 2011 alone, up 14 percent from the previous year. And 2011 marked the largest trade surplus for travel and tourism on record for our country at $43 billion. I mean, that’s a pretty significant number, so the numbers kind of speak for themselves. One of our goals, obviously, is to have more and more countries in the Visa Waiver Program. I know there’s a few of you in this room that are interested in that, and we can talk about that in the Qs and As.
But as you know, the Visa Waiver Program is really the program that allows us, obviously, more flexibility in allowing people here. And as you know, Secretary Clinton nominated Taiwan for inclusion in the program in 2011, and in April, President Obama committed with the president of Brazil to put it on – it too on the path to membership. And as I was just recently in Poland, and I announced in Poland that we are – our goal is to try to get this legislation passed that is obviously pending in the Congress to get Poland into the Visa Waiver Program by the end of the year. So again, I’ll be working closely with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to accomplish that.
We’re also spending a lot of time working with Brand USA, which I know my friend and colleague Ken Hyatt will be talking about. Well, Brand USA obviously has been put together to promote U.S. tourism. The State Department, working with Brand USA in many of their targeted countries, will be working in partnership again to send a very positive message to those who want to travel to the United States that America welcomes them and we’re open for business.
So we are really attempting to try to address these issues around tourism in a very direct, concrete way. When we – about a year ago, it was brought to our attention that the wait times were becoming a concern among some of our allies of coming here to the United States. In particular, we were focused on Brazil and China and India, and when we started getting into this issue, we realized that the wait times of Brazil were north of 140 days in some cases. So coming to the United States should not take 140 days. We had hoped that we could do something to resolve that. And with the great work of the Consular Affairs group – David Donahue is here and will answer any of your questions that I probably can’t answer – we were able to surge people into Brazil, open new offices – or new consular offices, open new windows for people to come in. And we’ve taken that 140 days down to four days in a matter of less than six months. And it’s done by really hard work, innovation, streamlining, and some policy changes – again, in no way compromising our security, but focusing on really the things that drive decisions of getting tourists to the United States. Also we’ve seen dramatic results in China as well by some changes that we’ve done to the program that also have dramatically reduced wait times in China.
So again, our goal here is, is to make sure that we were able to achieve the goals the President laid out in his policy address a few months ago at Disneyland, and this year we expect more than 65 million tourists from all over the world to visit the United States. That’s 65 million tourists to visit the United States. And last year, we issued more than 7.5 million visas, an increase of almost 17 percent over the previous year. So we are seeing a dramatic increase in visa issuance and tourists, and obviously for us, that’s something that we are very excited about.
So I am – want to make one last point, which is I’m incredibly impressed by the men and women at the State Department who work on these issues every day, and some – I don’t think most of us, and certainly I didn’t recognize how complicated these jobs are. Because the State Department, along with our colleagues here, but DHS, are at the front lines of making sure that the people who come to the United States are coming to the United States for all the right reasons. And that interview and the visa process is set up for that purpose. So at the same time we are trying to increase tourism in the United States, we’re also conscientious of the role we play to make sure the United States is a great place to come, a secure place to come, so we are – have a dual mandate that we’re trying to achieve.
So thank you very much. I’ll turn it over to my colleagues and be willing at the end to answer a few questions that you may have.
ASSISTANT SECETARY SUH: Good afternoon. My name is Rhea Suh. I’m the Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and Budget at the Department of Interior. Thank you all for being here, and thank you, Deputy Secretary Nides. As Deputy Secretary Nides indicated, President Obama has a number of significant goals around increasing our exports, doubling our exports. And one of the primary ways that we’re focusing on trying to do that is really through the initiatives around tourism.
So what we’re going to talk a little bit about today is what the Administration across the federal government has done on trying to increase the opportunities for foreign nationals to come to the United States and vacation. We’ve recently just produced a national strategy on tourism and travel that lays out, I think, a seamless strategy across the federal government to enable folks to get the best world-class experience from the moment they start planning their trips to the moment they arrive to the United States to the moment they depart.
So what I’m going to talk to you about today is a little bit about the types of experiences that foreigners could potentially take advantage of within the United States. As many of you know, America is really the land of extraordinary natural wonders, from the Grand Canyon to the Florida Keys, from Yosemite to Yellowstone. The diversity of our offerings make it such that there is something for everyone out there. America is where we do big things. And as a result, we have incredible landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. In particular, I’m really proud of the opportunities that we have in America’s great outdoors – so the great outdoors of our country that are represented by well-known and iconic destinations such as Yellowstone National Park or even off the beaten path places like Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and Desert National Wildlife Refuge. America’s public lands are abundant and diverse and offer unique and world class experiences.
My agency alone manages 397 national parks all throughout the country. We have 556 national wildlife refuges and 886 units of the National Landscape Conservation System, all available for recreation. And many of our iconic destinations can be easily accessed from major transportation gateways, including the top 10 cities that are most visited by international visitors, including New York, Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu.
So what I wanted to underscore is that the federal family has been working hard again to try to provide visitors with seamless experiences, and the Department of Interior in particular is trying to create new itineraries for visitors that are interested in coming to places in America to think about off the beaten path possibilities for their trips. So, for example, for those visitors that go to Las Vegas, of which there are a lot, there are a lot of things to see in Las Vegas, but within an hour drive, just outside of Las Vegas, you have at least three national parks – the Mojave National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, a dozen wildlife refuges, several dozen Native American reservations. And all of these are potential new tourism itineraries that could be added on to an existing trip to Las Vegas.
And so it is these types of itineraries that the Department of Interior is creating. We’re working with our private sector partners to try to promote these things, along with Brand USA. And we are trying to encourage travelers to take a different type of look at an opportunity to visit the United States, not just the traditional stop-ways like Las Vegas or Miami, but to extend their travels a couple days longer to really explore what America has to offer.
And so with that, just one final note on the fact that I think in addition to offering some of these itineraries to travelers, the United States Department of Interior, and specifically the National Park Service, is also trying to move into the 21st century of technology and making sure that all of our integrative services, all of our maps, and all of our brochures are being presented in multiple languages so that they’re accessible to the broadest audience possible, and again, so that we can provide the visitor, no matter where they come from, with the most memorable experience.
So with that, let me turn it over to my colleague from the Department of Commerce. Thank you.
MR. HYATT: Thank you, thank you. I wanted to talk a little bit about the national strategy. Both Tom and Rhea have mentioned it. We released it last month. Very positive feedback from the private sector, very positive feedback from the international community. The strategy articulates a goal of attracting 100 million annual visitors to the United States by the end of 2021, who we would estimate would spend $250 billion in that year. That compares to just over 62 million visitors in 2011 and $153 billion in expenditures. We think it’s an ambitious goal. We also think it’s a realistic goal.
As Tom mentioned, in February we generated $12 million of exports. The data has just come out for the month of April, this morning actually, and there’s a 12 percent increase over 2011. So what we’re continuing to see in a more difficult, broader economic environment, very excellent performance in terms of travel and tourism, and in particular in drawing international travelers. And so we’re excited by that 12 percent increase as compared to last year.
The strategy has five core components to it. Let me briefly describe them to you. One, promoting the United States. And this is everything from what Rhea was talking about – improving the information we provide to possible travelers; doing an excellent job in communicating that the United States Government welcomes visitors; and as Tom mentioned, working with Brand USA, a not-for-profit organization whose mission it is both to promote the United States and also to communicate various travel facilitation issues – how we’re doing in terms of visas, how we’re doing in terms of entry, et cetera. So we’re working closely with Brand USA, we’re welcoming visitors, we’re providing improved information.
Second pillar of the strategy: enabling and/or facilitating travel, which is everything from continuing the great progress in terms of the visa process to continuing to improve the global entry experience as people come to this country.
A third pillar, as Rhea mentioned, trying to take a customer service orientation to how we engage international travelers. Much as the private sector does, viewing the customer experience is critical. How do we do what we can to make certain at each point along the process, visitors are experiencing a positive customer experience?
Fourth pillar, how do we coordinate the American Government better and have a whole of government approach to travel and tourism? Through this process of the development of the strategy, I think there are agencies that are working more closely together on these issues than there have been, and we’re doing what we can to make certain that momentum and that cooperation among these agencies continues. And that’s everything from how we work with the Tourism Policy Council, which is the intergovernmental unit that coordinates travel issues, to the establishment of a National Travel and Tourism Office at the Department of Commerce.
Final pillar to this: What do we need to do in terms of research and creating metrics? What are the data needs of industry? What are the data needs of policymakers to make certain we have good information to guide both how we think about helping private sector organizations market, and also how we think about making good policy decisions?
And so we’re at the stage now where we have the strategy and it’s now onto how do we make certain this gets implemented, which of course is what the real issue is. But we’re encouraged by both the reaction, the energy, and the momentum going forward.
MODERATOR: And with that, we’ll open it up to questions. I’d just ask that you wait for a microphone before you ask your question, and state your name and media affiliation. We’ll go right here first.
QUESTION: Thank you. Marcin Wrona, TVN Poland. Sir, I am glad that you are the one who mentioned Poland and you are the one who said that hopefully by the end of this year Poland will be included into the Visa Waiver Program. I spoke with some of the sponsors of the bill, and they told me on the record that if we do not manage to go through both houses of the parliament, of the congress, by the end of May this year, then we are doomed. Apparently nothing happened so far. Does it mean that we are doomed with this project – that Poland is not going to be included into the Visa Waiver Program by the end of this year?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: No. I don’t believe that. First of all, this is – as you know, it has bipartisan support, which basically very little has bipartisan support, except to adjourn. So I think there is a lot – an enormous amount of support for this. I mean, we are – the Administration, as you know, has publicly stated that we’d like it accomplished. We are working very closely. It’s called the JOLT Act, which we obviously has – it purposely obviously does – is focused on a lot of things, but the principal mover of this is Poland. We are working with the Congress daily, and there’s very little opposition for this, but obviously getting anything through both chambers is always complicated. But I am committed on behalf of the White House and the Secretary of State to do everything we can to get this done.
So I don’t believe that the May deadline was – we have a lot of time. Like anything else, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And we’re very focused on it. So I – with a lot of help from members of Congress who care deeply about this and from the White House’s commitment, I’m confident we’re going to make progress. And our goal is still the same, which is to get this accomplished by the year end.
QUESTION: Well, we have to be realistic about the election cycle. There is not much time left.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: You’d be surprised at how much time we have left. So I – (laughter) – so let’s focus. Let’s focus how we can get it done, not that we can’t get it done. Let’s drive the process forward. We’re very supportive. Obviously, the Government of Poland has been terrifically helpful on this issue, the desire of having this legislation done for the purpose of helping get Poland into the program. So again, it’s very rare that you get a bipartisan support on anything, unfortunately. In this particular case, there is bipartisan support for this, and we should take advantage of that and get this done.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Next question. We’ll go right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. Mr. Secretary, as you say, a lot of people in Taiwan are anxiously waiting for Taiwan’s participation in the VWP to begin. Could you, first of all, update us on this – Taiwan’s status? Especially, when do you expect Taiwan’s participation to officially begin?
On a related matter, President Ma Ying-jeou has actually invested a lot of his political capital in his effort to lift the ban on U.S. beef. Apart from the VWP program, what else can the United States do to reward him or reward Taiwan? Thank you, sir.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Well, I think the – as you know, we’ve been very clear about how excited we are about having them into the program. For – listen, it’s good for us too. This is not just good for those in Taiwan. It’s good for Americans. It’s good for our consumers. So there is – so I like to say this is a win-win.
So let me ask David to give us the timing of the execution of that. Or who would like to – Dave, would you like to do that?
MODERATOR: Can you please pass that microphone over?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: See, I give him the hard questions about timing. (Laughter.) See, I get the softballs, and I give the hard ones to him.
MR. DONOHUE: Well, we don’t have an exact timeline. But as you know, the Secretary has nominated Taiwan, and we have had teams out there from the Department of Homeland Security to review qualifications. Everyone wants this to move forward. All of the very strict requirements have to be met, and everyone is trying to do that as soon as it possibly can be done, so I think everybody’s hoping that it will move forward very quickly.
QUESTION: Do you have a timeframe? Will it be (inaudible) this year?
MR. DONOHUE: Well, we would certainly like it to be this year. That would be – I think everyone – that’s everybody’s interest. But you can’t – we don’t like to give a timeframe to something that is a part of a process.
QUESTION: Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Soon. Obviously, we’re supportive of those actions. Again, one of the ways – listen, our – the bilateral relationships between our two economies could not be stronger, as you know, on a variety of issues, including this issue around tourism, the national security dialogue. So we – obviously, gestures and focus on issues of trade issues, which tend to have friction in them, obviously alleviate those issues, obviously create – open more doors for trade, investment, cooperation.
But I think – listen, I think that most of us – and certainly at the State Department – feel very comfortable where this relationship is. And I think we’re very much focused on getting certainly something that you can visibly see in getting the waiver program completed very quickly. It’s something that would be in both of our economies’ national and security interests, but more importantly, good for both our economies.
MODERATOR: For the next question – do you still have one? We’ll go to the gentleman in the middle.
QUESTION: It’s Tony Liao from Central News Agency in Taiwan. A similar question: There’s lots of countries in Asia. They kind of promote tourism with the cheaper tickets. But somehow here, we got easier visa, but the ticket’s still quite expensive to go all the way to United States. Is it possible to create such program to cooperate with like United or American Airlines to make a campaign to the Asian consumer, make them easier to come here to spend money? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: That sounds like a Commerce Department question – an Interior question. Go ahead, Ken. (Laughter.)
MR. HYATT: We’re, of course, happy to engage the airlines on such topics, and it is also fair to say that pricing is fundamentally a decision of the airlines. And I think one could certainly see, if and when – or I should say when the visa waiver goes through that there would be increased interest in attracting travelers. And again, it’s a – fundamentally an airline decision.
MODERATOR: Okay. Next question will go to Brian.
MR. HYATT: Thank you, Tom.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Anytime. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Brian Beary, Washington correspondent for Europolitics newspaper. You mentioned Poland as being the next likely European country to be put onto the Visa Waiver Program. There’s also a few other EU countries that are not on. There’s Romania and Bulgaria and Cyprus and also I believe – well, next year, Croatia will be joining the EU. Just wondering if you have any update on their prospects.
And also is there any likelihood that the $14 ESTA fee is going to be abolished?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Well listen, as you know, we have very clear criteria to get into the Visa Waiver Program, including denial rates as well as issues around data sharing, which is really a big issue as it relates to making sure that we have data cooperation between the countries, and that takes time. I mean, one of the reasons why obviously it’s slower than some of us would like is that countries are very careful in data that they share and we have very clear requirements, especially in a visa waiver situation where we then are allowing people to come through without the – with a much quicker – ease than you would normally have.
So as it relates to the four countries you mention in the EU, I don’t – is there any update on that you want to share with the group?
MR. DONOHUE: Well, certainly a number of – several of the countries are not quite close to the required refusal rates. We certainly talk with the capitals and talk about what are the – make sure they understand the requirements. We certainly welcome them to start working on – particularly the information sharing agreements that are part of the Visa Waiver Program admission. But at this time, there’s no specific plan for those countries.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I mean – you should be clear – it’s – again, it is in our best interest to get as many countries in the Visa Waiver Program we can, given the rules and laws that are set out. I mean, obviously, the ease of foreign travelers that come to the United States is good for the United States. It’s good for your countries as well, but it’s certainly good for the United States because it creates jobs.
And one the reasons that Ken and the folks at Interior have worked so hard and diligently to partner with things such as Brand USA is we get it. We understand a direct correlation between more tourism and job creation in the United States. There’s nothing that’s probably clearer, a direct line that we can see on paper, than this.
So between the President’s initiative that he’s laid out about what he’s trying to achieve on top of the desire to take advantage of the increased tourism and what it could do, potentially, for economics, you have a – we’re pushing on an open door, as I – we like to say. And again, having more countries in the program will only benefit us. And that’s why we want to work diligently with each country as quickly as possible that are eligible to get into the program.
QUESTION: And the ESTA fee?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I have no idea. (Laughter.) I’m going to have Dave sit up here. I’m going to sit back there. (Laughter.)
MR. DONOHUE: The Congress funded the ESTA program just for its initial start ups, so the $14, $4 of that goes just to run the program, which is a pretty extensive program that’s good for our national security. The $10, as you probably know, goes to the Brand USA, to the – to a program for travel and tourism promotion. And that is according to law. So right now, there’s no plan that I know of to change the ESTA fee, but there’s certainly is a need to fund those programs.
MODERATOR: Great. For the next question, we’ll go down here, Dagmar.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Dagmar Benesova. I’m from Slovakia, from World Business Press Online news agency. Well, I have a couple of questions. One question is – the first question is: You mentioned that the last year, it was the biggest increase or the big jump of 14 percent in tourism in the U.S. and was the largest surplus. Could you mention or elaborate more detail from which countries was the increase the most significant and contributed? Thank you very much.
The second question is: What are the main reasons, according to you, that the tourism increased such significantly in the last year?
And the last situation – question –the third one is: Regarding the situation in Europe, did you observe any decrease of tourism coming into the U.S. from Europe? Or if it will be happening, do you have any plans how you would like to attract European to come to the U.S.? Thank you very much.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: In particular, the increases come from the same countries that have had large tourisms already, which include Brazil – Latin America in particular, but Brazil, specifically. We’ve also seen large increases obviously from China and India. Places where we’ve have had very large wait times is the areas where we’ve also seen a dramatic increase in tourism.
Obviously for those countries, interestingly enough – I find it intriguing when I have lots of discussion with our friends in the travel and tourism industry who continue to discuss with us wait times and desires to have more tourists come to the United States who happens to – that don’t – aren’t part of the Visa Waiver Program. I try to explain to them that if we – there’s two ways of growing the tourism numbers.
One is, obviously, getting more countries into the Visa Waiver Program and make it easier for people to come to the United States. That’s one way of increasing tourism. Another way to do is to increase tourism for those countries that already are in the Visa Waiver Program. Sixty-five percent of the tourists who come to the United States don’t need a visa because they’re already in a Visa Waiver Program.
So one of the reasons that our friends at Interior and Commerce have done such a good job of connecting the tissues with Brand USA is that we need to do a better job in expanding that group as much as we do need to expand those countries that do need visas.
So I want to be – so it’s a very important message because we all tend to think about tourism going up like this, if in fact visas were easier to obtain. The fact of the matter is it’s – will go up like this for both ways. One, that we in fact do make it easier for people to come to the United States, but as importantly, is we convince people, especially in Europe where most of them have visa waiver programs that they will actually take advantage and come to the United States. And one of the reasons they’re trying to, as Ken said, increase the experience, the tourism experience from the people who come to – come through the ports of entry through the whole experience is going to be important to drive tourism here in the United States.
As your question around Europe is – listen, this is very much economic driven, obviously. People don’t have extra dollars. They tend – the first thing that goes is travelling, obviously. That’s – it’s a discretionary spend, and we’ve obviously seen it’s a little bit of a bumpy ride, certainly some of the countries in Europe. But we have generally seen an increase in European travel to the United States over the last year. That trend is continuing into the first quarter of 2012, and our hope is, with the increased tourism push by Brand USA and the work that the Interior Department is doing along with Commerce, you will also see those numbers increasing quite dramatically over the next year.
MR. HYATT: I’d also just add if you’re interested in data by country, a source of data by country is on the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries website. If you Google OTTI, it will take you to that website, within which you can find a tremendous amount of data: growth rates by country, visitation by country. So if you’re interested in the data by country, there’s a source of data on the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries website, on our website.
MODERATOR: Okay, we have time just for one or two more questions. Right here.
QUESTION: Hi, Sonia Schott with Globovision, Venezuela. Well, you just mentioned Latin America, and you said that the Brazil numbers has increased in terms of tourism. But I will like to know more or beyond Brazil regarding other countries, because according to some analysts, Latin America is doing well in economics, not that well in politics. So I will like to know if you have some comments on that, not only on Brazil. Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Well, thank you. Well, it’s a great question, because Mr. Hyatt and I had the opportunity to go to the T-20. For those of you who don’t know what the T-20 is, it’s tourism of the G-20 in which we both were able to go to Cancun, although I can’t admit that – people think we went to Cancun to sit on the beach, but it was way too hot for that.
But the whole idea around that was the lead-up to the G-20, which obviously is taking place in Mexico, as you all know. And the real focus was on, in fact, global tourism, but there was a lot of focus on Latin America tourism in particular, not just in Mexico but all through not only Brazil but all through Latin America. But you have seen a dramatic increase in tourism increases in Latin America, principally because the economies are doing quite well. And again, there’s a direct correlation between GDP growth and tourism growth, and obviously we’re trying to take advantage of that as we see fit. And so obviously we’ve seen a dramatic increase in visa issuance in Mexico as well as Brazil as well as a variety of other countries throughout Latin America.
Ken, do you want to add anything to that?
MR. HYATT: Yes. Again, I would point you to the website, because I know that even as we project forward what are the nations that are the most likely to generate growth, as an example, Argentina is predicted as one of the fastest growing nations over the next five years. Venezuela is also predicted.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) Venezuela?
MR. HYATT: Yeah. And so as we’ve done this analysis – and this is as of April 2012, Argentina is projected at 46 percent through 2016, Venezuela at 35 percent through 2016, which are some of the highest growth rates. So supporting with data that which Tom talked about.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: All right. We have time for one more quick question. Right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Could you talk specifically what are those events you’re going to host on June 14 in China? And also since Ambassador Gary Locke took office, what has he done differently to attract tourists? What’s the goal?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Well, number one, Gary Locke has done a spectacular job in this particular area. And again, when he first got to China, he made it a top priority to address the visa issues in China, as you know. Not only was he concerned about the wait time, but obviously the desire to – people, again – the Chinese tourists also were having the same issues about the time that it took to get – physically get a visa. So, one, with Gary Locke’s – Ambassador Locke’s help and with the spectacular work of our consular officers, we were able to dramatically reduce the visa wait times.
The other thing through – with Gary Locke, with our colleagues at DHS and the State Department, we were able to work on this question around visa renewals. So one of the real concerns for people is how do they have to physically go and get their visa renewed. And what we’ve done through a variety of different ways is we’ve dramatically made it easier for people to renew their visas. And if you go and look at the websites, you’ll see how we’ve accomplished that. But by doing that, it’s allowed people to go multiple times without getting – and getting their visa done through online versus having to physically go in front of a consular officer. We still have the ability to ask to have that happen, but it’s – again, it’s dramatically eased the timing to get a visa. So we worked very closely.
As it relates to the economic statecraft day – thank you – tomorrow, the Embassy in China are doing a variety of events. I know Ambassador Locke is doing things with the local chamber. They’re doing some stuff on intellectual property. They’re doing events around tourism. So there is – because the country is so large, we have the opportunity to do a variety of different things, again, emphasizing this nexus between economics and job creation and economics and diplomacy. So we – as we like to talk about, it’s the – again, the prosperity part of peace and prosperity, which is the mandate of the State Department. This is the prosperity agenda, and there’s no better way to emphasize that as in China. And so with the good work our Embassy and consular offices in China, we’re really going to have some spectacular events tomorrow in China to talk about this. But again, they will be all over the world.
Unfortunately, I have to leave, but thank you all very much. I very much appreciate it. I’m sure my colleagues would like to stay. If not, they’ll leave as well. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming today.
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