Ils sont fous, ces Américains

by Volker Weber

How do you battle a 17 percent decline in overseas visitors? You charge a $10 entry fee. Gratuity not included. How does this work?

For example, some travellers have said that they feel like they are treated like criminals. We need additional resources to address these issues which is why we have proposed the fee.

Here is an idea. Stop treating visitors like criminals in the first place.

[via Hanno]


There you go again, with your silly European "logic" thingy. We'll have none of that over here......

/what, me bitter?

Rob McDonagh, 2007-07-12

hehe when i read the title i was all like " il parle français " ;)

Then. Yeah. Definitely crazy

Gonzague Dambricourt, 2007-07-12

Well, who has ever heard of people paying to be treated like criminals? Maybe, for that money the US might get around to finally install a transit area in their international airports, like most civilized countries do, as some people do happen to not have the intention to enter the States through "immigration", in spite of being the land of the free, but just want to take another plane to some other civilized country, like, Mexico for example ;-)

Armin Roth, 2007-07-13

Unfortunately, Armin, that isn't likely to happen under current administration thinking. Because anyone on a plane bound for the US is considered a potential shoe bomber, the US wants to know who you are, even if you are transiting. It is the human version of Pan Am 103 -- no through traffic without being examined.

International travel outside the US is much more civilized anywhere except the UK -- heck even the Chinese have figured it out (at Shanghai) at least.

Ed Brill, 2007-07-13

Even worse. Even if you never agreed to go to the US, you are forced through immigration if your plane makes any emergency stop. Including the full finger print and profiling procedure. If you want to avoid this, make sure you steer clear of all flights from Europe into the Carribean.

Volker Weber, 2007-07-13

From what I know, they even want your data if you're not even landing in the U.S. but merely flying over any U.S. territory. Pretty ridiculous, if you ask me. So for my next trip (in a few weeks) I might have to account for another item on the travel expense bill...

Ragnar Schierholz, 2007-07-13

Ok, now that I've read the report in full length, I am left wondering...
Our borders are the intersection of security and prosperity.
So, what does that mean? There's security outside U.S. borders and prosperity inside? Or the other way around? And do they want to let in whatever is outside? Does this imply that prosperity and security are colliding concepts and they happen to collide on the borders of the U.S.?!? I am confused...

Ragnar Schierholz, 2007-07-13

If certain people in Washington, D.C. hadn't spent all their(?) money on military gear on the other side of the planet, they could easily pay each visitor ten thousand $ welcome money.

The problem would be solved in no time. It wouldn't even have existed in the first place.

Frank Dröge, 2007-07-13

for more on this topic, see this Arthur Frommer article:
Since 2000, tourism to the United States from abroad has declined by 10 percent. Though all nations lost tourism in the immediate wake of 9/11, virtually all other nations have made up the deficit and forged ahead. Since 2000, tourism to Britain has increased by 13 percent. Tourism to Australia has increased by 21 percent. Tourism to France has increased by 20 percent.and this while the dollar is weak.

Ed Brill, 2007-07-16

I don't understand the problem. If this is actually going towards security and improving tourism, I don't see an issue. I would assume $10 is not a big deal for people traveling to the US.

@Frank - As much as this a negative stab at the US, the war argument does not seem relevant in this situation.

@Volker - As far as putting visitors through immigration when forced to land unintentionally, i agree with the decision. Maybe it could be streamlined for those who did not have a destination in the US, but better to be safe than sorry. And as you said, if you really want to decrease the odds of this happening, change the flight plan to minimize the odds. I'm curious what happens if this occurs when forced to land in a European country that is not your original destination.

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-16

I don't understand the problem.

Have you ever travelled to East Germany (DDR) in the 40 years it existed? Their border regime was pretty similar. Although they never fingerprinted their visitors like criminals.

I'm curious what happens if this occurs when forced to land in a European country that is not your original destination.

Pretty simple. You stay in the international area. Quite an alien concept, eh? ;-)

Volker Weber, 2007-07-16

Ahh. My ignorance of international travel (as I have never traveled outside of the states) has limited my view of the subject.

So what exactly happens when you visit the U.S., you must present a passport, get fingerprinted, get your luggage inspected, anything else???

As a citizen of the US I must say I appreciate that visitors are finger-printed and honestly would not mind if that occurs when I visit another country.

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-16

I have never traveled outside of the states.

With all due respect, then you are not in a position to debate the reasons why fewer people travel to the US. You have to take our word for it that most borders are not run like prisons. It may suprise you that there is no border control at all between many countries, such as between Germany and France.

Volker Weber, 2007-07-16

Agreed that my lack of experience limits the discussion. However as Ed said I believe the weak dollar may also have a part in this...
To be honest, as much as decreased tourism affects the US economy, I still appreciate the increased security. However, I am sure there is plenty of room for improvement to make visitors feel less like criminals.

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-16

The weak dollar should help tourism to the United States. The lower the value of the dollar, the more dollars your visitors get for their money. Thus all expenses like rental cars, hotels, meals get cheaper. In the light of the weak dollar the decline in visitors becomes even more dramatic.

What makes you think your security has increased?

Volker Weber, 2007-07-16

Yes it should help...I read an article/blog entry some time ago arguing to the contrary (not specifically related to tourism but the global economy and the US role in it) - ill try to find it.

So finger prints and the such have been status quo for a while? or are you commenting on the fact that just because security has increased to those visiting the US does not mean that citizens are in fact more secure?

I fully understand that is bothersome to someone visiting the US that they get treated this way. Hence part of the reason for the $10 fee (actually a tax, pet peeve of mine is when the gov't calls taxes 'fees' to make them sound better). As far as finger-printing and such-i don't think it will go away and would expect it not to, so no reason to complain about it. Homeland security can (and hopefully will) look at the process and determine ways to make it less of an inconvenience. Maybe this fee doesn't bother me as much because I used to live in a state that charged out of state visitors extra fees for visiting its attractions. Those fees in turn not only go to the citizens of that state, but also go towards making the areas of attraction safer and all around better environments.

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-16

@Gerry, have you ever thought about why people might not want to visit your country any more?

It's not because of ten bucks. It's because of the way they're treated. Word spreads around pretty fast. And why are they treated like this? Because of 9/11 and its wake. And why 9/11? Everybody has his/her own opinion on this, but one common argument one hears is the way the export of the American Way Of Life is executed, to put it politely. So don't expect me to step back on any of my arguments. Or prove me wrong.

Charging entrance fees reminds me more of Disneyland. But Disneyland treats you like a customer.

Frank Dröge, 2007-07-16

Admittedly, there are a number of countries that charge a departure tax...these days it is mostly hidden in the ticketing fees. If the US called it that instead, what would you think?

Ed Brill, 2007-07-16

Or maybe they should build some international areas and charge a fee for their use. Heh. I'm not serious. Well, mostly not. But I think travelers might be happier at this point to pay a fee to *avoid* entering the US as opposed to paying one when they do enter (especially in those cases where they have no intention of staying).

I have to say that Heathrow is no treat, either. Every time I go through there, I have to check my carryon luggage through security multiple times just to get to my connecting flight. And I have had to go through customs for connecting flights there as well (though not every time, and I don't fly often enough to have figured out the ruleset). Maybe this is why Ed excluded the UK from his comment above about how much more civilized the rest of the world is when it comes to air travel. The customs officials were uniformly polite, though, and waived me through immediately as soon as they knew I wasn't staying in the country.

Oh, and Dublin after ILUG was positively insane. They kept moving the gates, but then because they didn't have a separate arrivals and departures area, they couldn't open the doors allowing us into the new gate area, so they kept us in hallways. For about an hour. With no explanation. Hardly the normal Irish hospitality, that's for sure, and the more noticeable because it was so strange.

Rob McDonagh, 2007-07-17

Dublin has gone mad within one year. ILUG 06 was a very pleasant travel in and out, and ILUG 07 was mad both ways.

And yes, Heathrow is one of the worst airports ever. Especially since the security theater was "enhanced".

Volker Weber, 2007-07-17

"To be honest, as much as decreased tourism affects the US economy, I still appreciate the increased security."

Gerry, what makes you think that these draconian measures lead to an increase in security? Have you ever heard of the term security theater?

Hanno Zulla, 2007-07-17

I really appreciate all of these comments. I am honestly trying to understand others points of view. It seems like the bottom line is that travel is more difficult in many areas now, not just the US, but that we seem to be one of the worst at making visitors feel welcome (i still haven't gotten any details if this is only the finger printing process or other issues as well).

@Frank - I can understand that perhaps visitors are not choosing to visit the US because of its policies, politics, etc... However I am just focusing on the topics covered in this article (i.e. the $10 fee and treating visitors like criminals).

@Hanno - I have heard of the term security theater and it might apply a little in this situation. However, if there was no finger printing and the like upon entry then that would be an open invitation in my opinion. No need to make things easier for those that are up to no good.

Thanks and make a good day!

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-17

"I have heard of the term security theater and it might apply a little in this situation."

A little. Indeed.

Hanno Zulla, 2007-07-17

Hanno, be careful. :-)

Volker Weber, 2007-07-17

Gerry, anti-American rhetoric seems to be a sport for some of our brethren across the pond. Remember that you are no match for their biting sarcasm and quick-witted discourse!

Rob Koppe, 2007-07-17

LOL. Thats what I get for being open minded i guess!

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-17

@Gerry...American to American:
"It seems like the bottom line is that travel is more difficult in many areas now, not just the US, but that we seem to be one of the worst at making visitors feel welcome (i still haven't gotten any details if this is only the finger printing process or other issues as well)."

It starts with getting permission to visit the US. Only 27 countries in the world have a "visa waiver" with the US where their citizens can decide to travel to the US without obtaining a visa first. This program has recently been called into question by the current administration. All other countries have to apply for a visa, and there are reports that just getting an appointment at the embassy to get a visa can take weeks of lead-time. Then there's the intensive questionnaire required to get a visa, if one is granted at all. And the fee.

Then there's the issue that international flights bound for the US must share their passenger data with the US upon takeoff. This leads to the occasional presence of uniformed immigration officers on jetbridges upon arrival at American airports, which I've only seen rarely anywhere else in the world. I've even seen it at O'Hare in the last couple of months where they check every passenger's passport upon deplaning, and this is on a flight from someplace friendly like Germany.

Then there's the fingerprint/photograph thing, called "US-VISIT", upon speaking to the immigration officer.

I have visited over 50 countries, and never been fingerprinted anywhere. Only a handful have photographed, usually as part of the visa application in advance. Russia, China, India, and Brazil have onerous visa processes for Americans, but in most cases, they are only mirroring what we do to their citizens.

I probably could think of more texture for this, but that should be a start in explaining how we are making travelers unwelcome.

@Rob McD -- yes, you nailed why I highlighted the UK..the inflexible one carry-on (for a woman, a purse, for example), the takes-forever transfers at Heathrow (which will only get worse when T5 gets online), the delays at Heathrow (ibid), etc. But at least their immigration officers are dressed in business attire and sit at podiums, not behind bullet-proof glass with guns and cameras.

Ed Brill, 2007-07-17

I greatly appreciate you bringing some real information to the discussion. As I said before, I am genuinely interested in understanding the situation.

I am curious, as a frequent international traveler, do you feel the increased steps that the US takes are truly 'security theater' elements or do you think they provide any real value? And, are you concerned that other countries do not provide increased security steps/levels? Personally, having flown to different parts of the US, I am concerned about the erratic levels of security from airport to airport.

You can answer offline if you wish @ since this appears to be mainly for my benefit.

Thanks again!

Gerry Shappell, 2007-07-17

Gerry, you have mail

Ed Brill, 2007-07-17

Gerry, thanks for showing more patience than us.

Volker Weber, 2007-07-17

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