Decreasing numbers of international travelers are visiting the United States. A small decrease (4 percent) was observed in 2017 with a more significant decrease — up to 20 percent from some European countries — in 2018. American tourism is a $1.3 trillion-dollar industry and supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
Because the decreasing number of visitors to the U.S. is a big concern for businesses that depend on tourism, a coalition of 10 associations representing these businesses — including the American Gaming Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the American Society of Association Executives, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the Society of Independent Show Organizers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association — has launched a “Visit U.S. Coalition” to promote “friendlier visa and border-security policies at a time when federal agencies are doing the opposite.”
According to Travel and Leisure, while tourism is down in the United States, world tourism was up. It doesn’t have to be like this, according to Roger Dow, president of U.S. Travel. He emphasized that “we can do both” in making “America the most secure and the most visited country on Earth.” He added, “America isn’t winning when we’re falling behind our global competitors.”
The decrease in visitors to the United States is not limited to tourists. For example, U.S. colleges and universities depend on international students to fill their classrooms and pay their bills. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), the U.S. receives about 1 million students from around the world each year, twice as many as the U.K., the next biggest host. Those students contributed, according to the IIE, about $37 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 450,000 jobs during the 2016-2017 academic year.
Colleges and universities want international students because they usually pay out-of-state tuition, allowing scholarship assisted tuition rates for American students. In addition, attracting the best and brightest students from around the world to U.S. colleges and universities increases innovation and keeps the U.S. the world leader in higher education. It also helps the United States attract and keep many of these scholars in the United States, working for U.S. companies that need the additional brain power. Losing these students and future scientists in critical subjects is a threat to our national security.
Other nations around the world see the current U.S. attitude regarding international visitors as an opportunity to attract the best and brightest in the world to their universities and industries. Their message is clear: If you do not feel welcomed in the United States, we would love to have you. As a result, the United States has experienced, for the first time in 15 years, two consecutive years of declining enrollment of international students at American colleges and universities. Meanwhile, other nations are seeing a significant increase in enrollments of international students. As stated by Amir Reza of Babson College, “The U.S. benefited greatly from having large cohorts of some of the most talented individuals from other countries. If those individuals who are going to be stars in their fields are deciding that Canada, Australia, the U.K., Germany, or even China are the more appropriate destinations, what does that do for U.S. competitiveness 10 or 15 years from now?
This issue is not limited to colleges and universities. American hospitals also depend on thousands of international physicians and other medical personnel from around the world. Hammad Khan, a medical resident at the University of California Davis, writes that the U.S. “has been the world’s premier training destination for young physicians for decades” and “America’s universities and medical systems attract some of the brightest minds from around the globe.” Indeed, writes Khan, one in four practicing physicians in the U.S. are graduates of foreign medical schools. “In short,” he writes, “we need these doctors desperately.”
Unfortunately, the number of residency applicants from foreign medical schools has also decreased in 2017 and 2018. Consider that 10,000 licensed physicians usually come from countries targeted by our current travel ban on several Muslim countries. Khan writes that foreigners are “getting a clear message: Immigrants are no longer welcome here. The rest of the world has received the message too ― and now, we’re seeing the consequences.” The United States writes Khan, “has slammed the door shut on an entire generation of physicians.”
Our immigration policy has unintended consequences beyond our southern border with Mexico. These unintended consequences will have both short- and long-term negative consequences for America.