A reform of U.S. Customs policies is needed to reduce wait times for travellers, said the U.S. Travel Association at IPW in San Antonio earlier this week.
Whilst the recent lifting of all travel restrictions to the U.S. was considered a major step in the right direction to recovering visitor numbers, Geoff Freeman, President and CEO at U.S. Travel Association, who joined in September 2022 to lead the association, noted U.S. Travel’s efforts to address barriers restricting international inbound travel growth.
A key focus for the association is addressing entry delays at U.S. Customs, with international arrivals frequently experiencing average wait times of more than an hour at main gateway U.S. airports, it was announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
“As a country, we need to stay competitive; to see around the corners and anticipate challenges that weren’t on our radar five or 10 years ago,” said Freeman. “We need to be constantly evolving to meet new demands and to ensure our entry process is not only secure, but simple and welcoming.”
To alleviate this, Freeman spoke of a policy where fewer travellers have to meet with a customs officers as well as more preclearance locations around the world to alleviate the pressure.
“We need to have enough customs officers at airports and other points of entry, particularly as demand increases. We are currently 1,700 CBP officers short of where we need to be. USTA is actively advocating for funding for additional staff,” he said.
Freeman also spoke of a 10-year strategic vision to improve the air travel experience which includes increasing the trusted traveller program participation, expanding biometric technology at screening checkpoints and more preclearance locations across the world.
IPW convened travel professionals and tour operators, buyers and wholesalers from around the world with the aim to draw future travel and tourism business to the U.S.