The Discover America Partnership released data showing that total overseas visitors coming to the US is still considerably less than before 9/11. Just over 21 million people came to the US last year compared to nearly 26 million in 2000. The numbers should be a lot higher given the very weak dollar - the US is basically on sale right now.

"The Department of Commerce projections are further evidence of the
extraordinary decline in overseas visitors to the United States," said
Stevan Porter, President of InterContinental Hotels Group and Chairman
of the Discover America Partnership.  "While we struggle for a decade
to return to where we were in 2000, our competitors continue to welcome
thousands of new visitors.  This has serious consequences for our
economy and public diplomacy efforts." 

AFP also reported on the data release and had some interesting comments from Discover America Executive Director Geoff Freeman:

"It's clear what's keeping people away in the post-9/11 environment:
it is the perception around the world that travelers aren't welcome,"
Freeman told AFP.



"Travelers around the world feel the US entry
experience is among the world's worst," Freeman said, calling on the US
government to work with the private sector to make visa acquisition
more efficient, the entry process traveler-friendly, and to improve
communication.



The head of the Travel Industry Association, Roger
Dow, at a recent briefing for reporters also stressed the importance
"of the welcome we issue to people.



"What affects travel and
tourism affects our economy and our image around the world. Travel and
tourism is the face of America, whether it's people coming here or
Americans going elsewhere," he said.



"It's the person coming from
India to look at a company in America for parts, or a person from South
America who can't get into the country for a conference because he
can't get a visa," Dow said.