US works on image to lure back alienated tourists

LONDON - The US government is to promote a more 'open door' policy to travellers, amid concerns that the drive to secure its borders in the wake of 9/11 has alienated inbound tourists.

The change is intended to restore the country's travel-friendly image, and follows a 35% decline in its share of the international travel market between 1992 and 2004, which has cost the US economy £160bn, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

The TIA welcomed a joint decision by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff to make it easier for travellers to enter the country. The intention is to "renew America's welcome" and present a "friendlier face" to the world.

Plans include introducing "greeters" at airports as well as more modern travel documents and border cards. A business visa centre will also be opened in the US to ensure swifter processing of applications for corporate visitors.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the TIA, said: "This announcement goes a long way toward sending the proper signal to our friends around the world that we want them to come visit."

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