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Industry Briefs

You might have read where the Trump administration recently announced plans to require additional information - including the social media history - from all individuals applying to enter the U.S. using a nonimmigrant visa. As a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which advises the Secretary of Commerce on travel-related issues, I have been following this matter closely.
Orlando is one of the most-visited U.S. destinations for international travelers. While effective security measures are of the utmost importance, we do have some reservations regarding this particular policy.

Here are four things you need to know, including how our industry is responding:

1) Summary: The proposed rule would require five years' worth of data related to U.S. visa applicants' social media accounts, telephone numbers, email addresses and travel histories. It would also require visa applicants to state whether any of their relatives had been involved in "terrorist activities." The rule would have affected nearly 15 million travelers last year.

2) Concerns: International travel is a highly competitive field, and one that can easily be influenced by new and evolving security protocols. I agree with the U.S. Travel Association that we must ensure any modification to the visa process does not add unnecessary burdens for applicants and that it delivers on its intended security benefit. (Can we really trust the "bad guys" to be honest in declaring their social media activity?) Further, there is reason to believe this policy could discourage interest among legitimate travelers who wish to visit our country, further harming efforts to regrow America's declining share of inbound international travel.

3) Potential Impact to Orlando: It's too early to say how this proposal could impact international travel to Orlando, but it's important to note that nearly 6 million of our annual visitors come from other countries and that they generate $9.3 billion in economic impact for our region. If approved, the proposal would affect travelers from three of Orlando's five largest overseas markets (Brazil, Argentina and Colombia), as well as several emerging markets we are working to grow, such as China and India. It's worth noting that Brazilians spend more, on average, in our destination than visitors from any other key international market. The proposal would not apply to our top two countries of origin (Canada and the United Kingdom) or 37 other predominantly European countries (France and Germany included) in the existing Visa Waiver Program.

4) What's Next: Nothing is scheduled to take effect immediately. The federal government has opened a 60-day comment period, ending May 29, in which stakeholders can voice their opinion. Our partners at the U.S. Travel Association are planning a robust and well-informed response. In addition, our industry's leadership is engaging on multiple fronts, including media outreach, conversations with the White House and key federal agencies, and working with members of the Visit U.S. Coalition on a broad engagement plan with Congress and the administration.

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