For years now, the United States of America has been losing out to European nations because of its stringent visa policies. But the struggling economy looks set to change all that. And luxury retailers are smiling.
President Barack Obama has finally agreed to speed up tourist visas for travelers from China and Brazil. The plan was signed officially on 19 January 2012. The idea is to shorten the visa application process from four months to three weeks. This means that the country’s visa processing capabilities will have to increase by as much as 40 percent within the next 12 months.
Tourists To Fuel Sales
The news has heartened retailers based in America. Bloomingdale’s CEO Michael Gould is understandably pleased. Gould reportedly said, “We’re expecting an enormous uptick in growth.” He added, “…the faster they (Chinese and Brazilian tourists) can get here the better.”
American retailers like Saks, Macy’s and Bloomingdales have long been envious of the ability of Paris and Rome to attract tourists, many of whom shop till they drop. The United States has been on the back foot here because visas to France and Italy are usually processed within 10 days compared to the four-month wait for a US visa. Gould hit the nail on the head when he said in an interview, “We find it frustrating to see business going elsewhere.”
The struggling US economy has also turned Americans into cautious spenders, which is telling on luxury (and non-luxury) retailers. Faster visas will bring in more international shoppers and boost the economy considerably.
How America Benefits
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States put enforced stringent visa policies to shore up security. While this may have kept terrorists out, it also cut into the country’s income from tourism. Between 2000 and 2010, tourism figures fell sharply, from 17 percent to a measly 11 percent. At a time of economic crisis, the United States could benefit from extra flow of tourists. As Stephen Sadove, CEO at Saks Inc. put it, “Additional tourists in the U.S. would lead to increased revenues in retailing and hospitality.”
The reduced dollar value would also attract tourists from emerging nations like Brazil, China and India. As these economies grow, tourists from the regions also increase. And as we all know, tourists love to shop, which spells good news for luxury retailers.
Increased revenue from tourism is sure to fuel the job scene in the United States. At a time when jobs have dried up, a rise in tourism could give rise to 1.3 million jobs and bring $850 billion in revenues for the American economy.
Luxury Brands Gear Up
The news has luxury brands gearing up to woo incoming tourists. So, while Bloomingdale’s devises ways to advertise their wares overseas, other brands are waiting to benefit as tourists from emerging economies head this way.
As it is, properties like Mall of America draw about 3 million international tourists each year. Speeding up of visas could increase this number considerably. Apparently, the average foreign tourist to Mall of America spends 2.5 times more than the average American buyer. This has resulted in mall officials hiring additional staff that are fluent in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. As the inflow of tourists increase, more retailers could be doing the same.