Obama administration attempts to lure wealthy tourists to boost consumer spending

Vishal Ganesan Contributor
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The Obama administration has identified what it says is a novel method for boosting the economy amid rising unemployment and stagnant wages: importing foreign tourists from emerging economies.

“For the first time, lawmakers, businesses and even White House officials are courting consumers from cash-rich countries such as China, India and Brazil to fill the nation’s shopping malls and pick up the slack for penny-pinching Americans” The Washington Post reports.

The report notes that while America’s economic growth has been relatively stagnant, “China’s and India’s shot up 10 percent.”

The American economy’s dependence on consumer spending is well-known, but consumers at home have responded to economic uncertainty by spending less.

Economist Brian Bethune told the Post that while you can’t “expect foreign tourism to be a silver bullet” for an ailing economy, tourism spending “makes an important difference.”

The Post notes of wealthy tourists that “this year, their spending is up 13 percent compared with last year, to nearly $87 billion.”

Despite the administration’s efforts to bring in more foreign visitors, the State Department has been sluggish to approve tourist visas.

In response to the increased demand, State has claimed it will reduce waiting times for appointments to 30 days and add more staff in countries like Brazil and China.

Nevada GOP Representative Joseph Heck, whose state benefits tremendously from gaming tourism, thinks the State Department could do better.

Last week, he introduced the Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011, which would cut the time required to get a tourist visa to just 12 days.