The President went to Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and used that platform to announce a new initiative to foster tourism. The premise of his statement was:
“When tourists come from other countries and spend money here, that’s actually considered a type of export. We don’t always think about it that way, but we should. Nothing says ‘made in America’ better than the Empire State Building or the Hoover Dam. When it comes to tourism, the good news is we’ve got a great product to sell.”
His agenda included the following specifics:
“Before flying to Cooperstown, Mr. Obama issued a memorandum designed to make it easier for foreign visitors to come to America. He directed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to develop a comprehensive plan within 120 days that focuses on a ‘national goal of improving the experience’ of foreigners arriving at U.S. airports and eliminating unnecessary wait times.
The president also called on the private sector to join the federal government in creating a “positive first impression” of the U.S. for guests from around the world.
The effort builds on the administration’s 2012 plan to streamline the processing of visas and make it quicker and easier to visit the United States.”
What was unsaid in this statement (a trend in this Administration which does not make much of an outreach to aviation or the FAA ) is the role of airlines in bringing those desirable foreign visitors and their currency to the United States. His Baseball Hall of Fame speech identifies that difficult issuance of visas, long INS and Custom lines impact the international interest in flying to the US. A4A reminded the President that its members have paid for the installation of Automated Passenger Control kiosks. , a mechanism which will shorten those delays.
A4A’s response mentioned its National Airline Policy which includes the need for NextGen to assure that those international passengers will arrive without significant ATC delays. His Secretary of Transportation has already acknowledged the positive economics of NextGen.
To include in his Cooperstown speech some reference to NextGen and to encourage Congress to move forward in supporting this critical infrastructure program would have put President Obama in the Aviation Hall of Fame.