Florida tourism may get boost if immigration bill passes

William Gibson, Florida Sun Sentinel

June 28, 2013

WASHINGTON — Anybody in Florida who makes a living from tourism stands to gain from a surge of foreign visitors – and their spending money – if an immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week becomes law.

Little-noticed provisions would make it quicker and easier for visitors to enter the country and avoid long waits at Florida’s busy airports and seaports. The same bill intended to block foreigners from entering or staying illegally is also designed to help legitimate travelers come and go without hassles.

That’s potentially good news for South and Central Florida’s economy, which thrives on international tourism, if the overall measure – or at least the travel provisions – can pass the U.S. House.

“For South Florida, it opens up an international market that has had huge growth, especially from Central and South America. And that market is very anxious to be here,” said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The critical issue for us is that people can leave their country without a long wait time [for a visa], and when they get here are not herded like cattle.”

She and travel promoters in Central Florida predict that the immigration bill would widen the flow of arrivals from populous nations like Brazil and Argentina and lead to new flocks of visitors, with shopping bags in hand, from nations like China and India.

“It will make a big difference,” said George Aguel, a former Disney executive and now CEO of Visit Orlando. “Folks from those countries have a decision to make: I can go to this other country or go to the U.S. Well, to go to the U.S. is kind of hard. You have to go through a lot of steps. It takes a longer time. We’re hoping that out of this [legislation] will come efforts to greatly reduce those challenges and obstacles.”

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New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…