America to slash visa application times
Posted on January 21, 2012
US President Barack Obama’s directive to streamline America’s visa application system should spur Australia into action, says the nation’s peak tourism export group.
On Friday (AEDT) Mr Obama ordered the US State Department to slash processing time for visa applications from China and Brazil by 40 per cent this year.
The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) says the federal government must respond to pleas for similar action here.
Mr Obama said applications for American visas need to be simplified.
“Applications keep going up, they are skyrocketing,” he said.
“That’s what this is all about, telling the world that America is open for business, making it as safe and as simple as possible to visit.”
ATEC boss Felicia Mariani says the presidential directive clearly recognised the significance of the tourism industry to the US economy and was focused on obtaining a greater share of key Australian growth markets in China, Brazil and India.
“He is mandating to his government to get their act together and get these speed humps out of the road,” she told AAP.
“It’s time for Australia to stop talking about how important tourism is to the economy and start taking action in the key areas that will remove the barriers to our performance and success.
“Australian tourism needs the same passion, fire and drive at the highest level of our government.
“We can’t afford to wait until we have to play catch up, as the US is doing now with this announcement.”
Ms Mariani said 11 years ago Australia and New Zealand were the first western countries to gain Approved Destination Scheme status from China.
However, she said that competitive edge has been eroded and the Obama administration is now displaying a whole-of-government commitment to driving change.
“We need the Australian government holistically committed to pulling the lever that will drive change for the tourism industry,” she said.
“Frankly while Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson is a very strong advocate for change, the problem is that he does not control the levers to pull in order to facilitate those changes.
“It requires other members of cabinet to agree that we have to make these changes, and that’s what Australia is missing.”
20 Jan 2012