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California Welcomes International Tourists

PHOTO: Seastacks and lighthouse at Point Arena-Stornetta California Coastal National Monument, which was protected earlier this year. The area was highlighted as the number three "Place to Go in 2014" by the New York Times. Photo credit: Scott Chieffo.
PHOTO: Seastacks and lighthouse at Point Arena-Stornetta California Coastal National Monument, which was protected earlier this year. The area was highlighted as the number three "Place to Go in 2014" by the New York Times. Photo credit: Scott Chieffo.
May 27, 2014

The busy summer vacation season is here, and California is putting out the welcome mat for international travelers, which is something the White House desires, too. President Obama last week said he wants to make it easier for foreign visitors to enter the U.S. because it will mean more tourism dollars and, in turn, more jobs.

Brian Wright, with Visit California, says 15 million international tourists visited the Golden State last year. An increase of 6 percent is projected for this year.

"We love overseas visitors," Wright says. "They typically stay longer. They stay for over 11 nights, and they spend more per trip than domestic visitors do."

California has 13 international tourism offices around the world, recently expanding outreach in China and Mexico. The National Economic Council estimates a tourist from overseas spends an average of $4,500 when they visit the U.S. The president's plan focuses on making the entry process easier for foreign visitors, from shorter waiting periods for visas to shorter and friendlier passport and customs lines.

Wright says tourism is a huge economic driver for the state: "Visitor spending in California was about $110 billion this last year, supporting almost 1 million jobs, and that drives about $7 billion in state and local taxes."

California's many national parks and monuments are a big attraction for international tourists, he adds.

"The outdoor market for us overseas is also a very big draw. It's one of the top drivers for people to come to visit California, so it's something very important for us," he says.

One of the most recent areas to gain increased protection is the Point Arena-Stornetta California Coastal National Monument. It has been highlighted as one of the top "Places to Go in 2014" by the New York Times.

The White House tourism initiative can be viewed here.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA