Jan. 19 - President Barack Obama orders streamlining of foreign tourist visas, touts U.S. tourism during a speech at Walt Disney World in Florida. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: President Barack Obama on Thursday (January 19) ordered the streamlining of applications for foreign tourist visas to the United States, focused on increasingly affluent Chinese and Brazilian visitors, in an effort to boost tourism and create jobs. Obama announced the modest package of reforms at the Disney World theme park in Florida, a state whose economy is heavily dependent on the tourist industry. The state, closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, will be a crucial battleground in November, when Obama faces a re-election vote that may hinge on Americans' perceptions of his handling of the economy. The American tourism industry and business groups have long advocated an easing of visa restrictions that were tightened in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Standing on "Main Street" in Disney's Magic Kingdom with Cinderella's castle in the background, Obama said he was making the visa changes to try to help spur American job growth. "Tourism is the number one service that we export. Number one and that means jobs. More money spent by more tourists means more businesses can hire more workers. It's a pretty simple formula and that's why we are all here today -- to tell the world America is open for business. We want to welcome you and to take concrete steps to boost America's tourism industry so that we can keep growing our economy and creating more jobs here in Florida and all across the country," Obama said. The visa changes were the latest measures rolled out by Obama to show voters he is serious about boosting the still-sluggish labor market and will act on his own whenever possible in the face of election-year gridlock in Congress. Obama said the new steps would help cut through red tape and make it easier for foreign tourists to come to the United States. The White House estimated that more than 1 million U.S. jobs could be created in the next decade if the country increased its share of the international travel market. The number of tourists from emerging economies with growing middle classes like China, Brazil and India is projected to grow sharply in coming years.