World travelers: America wants you

Kenyan artist Nicholas Sironka received a warm welcome to the United States when he first visited in 1999 -- a reception he's missed since.

CNN "I came and it was joyful -- people receive you with smiles at the airport. Today, it's so tense," said Sironka, a Masai tribe member who spent time in the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar before the terrorist attacks in September 2001 prompted tightened security and entry requirements.

"It is good to be a superpower, and we wish you the best in everything you do to keep out bad people. But what about the good people? Should they be treated the same as the bad people?" said Sironka, who has returned to the U.S. more than a dozen times. "There is a courtesy that used to be there that needs to come back."

Sironka's experience hits on one of the reasons the U.S. Travel Association says overseas visitation to the United States has yet to recover to pre-9/11 levels.

Despite strong global growth in long-haul international travel between 2000 and 2008, the U.S. welcomed 633,000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than it did in 2000, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Calculations for overseas visitors do not include arrivals from Mexico and Canada, the top two tourist-generating countries for the United States in 2008.

The lag in the growth of overseas visits can be attributed to a difficult visa process, a lack of national promotion and a negative perception of how people are treated upon arrival, said Roger Dow, the U.S. Travel Association's president and CEO.

While strides have been made in recent years, he says, it takes time for those changes to be recognized.

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Source - CNN

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