Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

More on the fraying US welcome mat

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Here’s another take. One problem with giving authority to minor officials is that it’s difficult to screen and train them all, so you inevitably end up with some who were attracted to the job by the opportunity to be officious and exercise their power excessively. When you grow a department quickly (TSA, for example), you end up with more of these, and unless there’s a program specifically to weed out the minor tyrants, they proliferate. The unintended consequences can be bad:

Two years ago we asked Telegraph readers whether the tightened security at US airports had put them off travelling to the country. The answer then was an overwhelming yes.

Last week, in the wake of new figures showing that fewer Britons are visiting the US than in 2000, we asked the same question. Again, the vast majority of responses suggest that, despite the favourable exchange rate of more than two dollars to the pound and a recent US charm offensive, British travellers have not been persuaded to go back.

Here is a selection of what you said:

So tourism from the UK is down 20 per cent with the dollar at more than two to the pound. Wait until it is back to a more normal $1.60 to the pound and there will be empty aircraft crossing the Atlantic and somebody in the Clinton/Obama administration wondering how that happened.

I had many enjoyable holidays in the US between 1995 and 2004, but stopped visiting after the introduction of iris scanning and fingerprinting.

The US is the only country in the world where tourism is regarded as a criminal activity and all visitors are subjected to an arrest procedure on arrival. It’s easier to enter China. It seems that the Department of Homeland Security would much prefer all visitors to stay at home. I know when I am not welcome – my tourist money has gone elsewhere and will not be back.
Name supplied, by email

I shall never return to the US, where you can be intimidated, insulted and made to feel like a criminal by aggressive officials. For business and pleasure, I prefer to visit India and China – the people are so polite, the countries are amazing and the exchange rates make the dollar look very expensive.
John Sinclair, by email

I used to travel regularly to the US for pleasure: to visit friends, enjoy the museums, galleries and landscape etc. However, it would take more than De Niro videos and typical US hype to get me back there as a tourist. On the last two occasions I visited, I found the security and immigration measures intimidating and offensive, the attitude of the staff administering them arrogant, intolerant and downright rude. I am a white, male, middle-aged lawyer; what it must be like for non-white, non-professional visitors, I can only imagine.
Felipe Ondonez de Rivera, by email

Speaking as a British citizen who lives in the US, I can understand why people avoid visiting. Once in the US, it can be a lot of fun, but having to deal with the immigration officials is never enjoyable.

Even as a green-card holder I am often treated with suspicion, in stark contrast to the courtesy I experience from UK immigration officers when returning home. I realise that these people have a job to do, but they don’t have to be so hostile while doing it.
John Brooks, by email

I have just returned from a visit to Phoenix. On arrival at Los Angeles, where I transferred, I was subjected to the dreaded extra security. I had to walk barefoot across filthy floors and was segregated from my three children in a Perspex box and ended up feeling completely violated. My children cried when they saw what was happening to me. In the end, all I wanted to do was go home, and I had only just arrived. I will not be returning.
JA Fawcett, by email

Contrary to expectations, when I flew into Boston this summer I found the immigration staff to be efficient, polite and helpful in the extreme. It was a much friendlier experience than the one I had when I last visited the US as a student 20 years ago. I would be happy to visit again, especially with the current exchange rate.
Jo, by email

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 8:49 am

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