Poland’s inclusion in the US visa waiver programme is positive move, but it will have limited impact on the current inbound travel slump

The US Travel Association has welcomed the recent decision by the US government to include Poland in the country’s visa waiver programme, but is also warning that trade tensions continue to pressure US inbound travel.

Poland’s inclusion in the scheme was effective earlier this month, and allows citizens and nationals of the European country to apply to travel to the US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, entering the country with an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Polish citizens wishing to travel in the United States for longer than 90 days, or who wish to engage in activities requiring other visa categories (e.g., to work or to study in the United States) will still need to apply for the appropriate category of visa. Polish citizens who are denied ESTA will also need to apply for a visa, like other nations on the visa waiver programme.

“Poland’s admission is projected to generate an additional USD702 million in travel spending and 4,300 American jobs in the first three years,” the US Travel Association concluded. It added that the “visa waiver programme’s ability to increase both American prosperity and American security—not to mention bolstering our relationships with our most important geopolitical allies—makes it a shining example of innovative, win-win policymaking”.

The US Department of Homeland Security, citing data from the US Travel Association stated that 23 million travellers arrived through the visa waiver programme in 2017, and they generated USD190 billion in economic activity and supported nearly one million jobs.

There are roughly 39 countries in the US visa waiver programme, the US Travel Association stated it is “hopeful that other strong candidates for entry – such as Israel and Brazil – will advance toward membership as well”. Earlier this year, Brazil eliminated visa requirements for travellers from the US, Canada, Japan and Australia.

Poland’s inclusion on that list occurs as international inbound travel contracted 0.4% year-on-year in Sep-2019, which was the fifth month “in negative territory in 2019”, the US Travel Association concluded. The group’s Leading Travel Index project that inbound travel volume will “decline 0.6% over the next six months as prolonged trade tensions and the high value of the dollar continue to weigh on demand for travel to the US”.

The US Travel Association has also backed proposed measure from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to streamline the application process of some of its trusted traveller programmes. According to a regulatory roadmap released by the Trump administration and reported by Politico, CBP intends to issue a public notice in January to consolidate applications and fees for the Global Entry, NEXUS, and Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) programmes.

The association says the expansion of secure traveller programmes will allow CBP to focus its resources on unknown risks. “By streamlining the process to include the applications and fees of other programs, CBP is providing a greater incentive to qualified travellers to join these programs—a move that will make travel to the US more secure and efficient,” says the US Travel Association.

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