Bill Marriott calls on Obama to loosen U.S. visa rules

BETHESDA, MARYLAND Bill Marriott has taken to the pages of Fortune magazine to plead with President Barack Obama to make it easier for travelers from the BRIC countries to visit the United States.

Noting that politicians show less interest in attending hotel openings than they once did, Marriott wonders if Obama and other U.S. officials understand and appreciate the value of the travel industry in jumpstarting the economy.

“I think politicians overlook the true potential of travel and tourism to create prosperity for more Americans and goodwill for our country around the world,” Marriott writes. “President Obama was recently in Latin America talking about how he wants to double America’s exports over the next five years to create 2 million new jobs. The solution was looking right at him in those cheering crowds. Invite them to America! But first we need to make the process of visiting smoother for them.”

Marriott points out that the United States requires in-person interviews for visas for citizens of BRIC countries, forcing Chinese travelers in particular to wait up to 48 days for an interview. Meanwhile, Brazilians do not even need visas to visit most Europe countries. “No wonder more Brazilians go to Europe,” he writes.

He calls for a target of five to 10 days for visa processing, which he says could be accomplished by boosting staffing at visa processing centers and extending the length of visas for low-risk candidates.

“I can see no other way the president can create jobs and stimulate the economy faster, at little cost, than welcoming people to the U.S.,” he writes. “And I invite the president to celebrate the results by joining me for our next hotel grand opening.”