A list of 20 policy changes to tackle lengthy queues suffered by travellers entering the US has been put forward by industry leaders.

The US Travel Association issued an open letter to the US Congress yesterday urging “prompt attention” to the recommendations and calling for legislative reform of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry process.

US Travel’s gateway airports council chair Rosemarie Andolino, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, said: “We believe that Congress should provide increased funding for CBP staff and initiatives such as Automated Passport Control to improve the re-entry process for U.S. and international travellers.”

A report by the industry body estimates the total cost to the US economy of delaying and deterring visitors is $95 billion over the next five years – dollars that could support 518,000 American jobs.

US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said: “The US welcomed 67 million visitors last year, and far too many of these valued customers spent the first hours of their trip waiting in line at US air ports of entry.

“International travel is a bright spot for the US economy, but long lines and wait times that many experience during entry are deterring millions of potential visitors while our country is working to rebuild its global market share.

“The issue is not CBP officers themselves, whom even delayed travellers regard as competent and hard-working; the problems lie in policy and resources, which Congress must address.”

The report found that 2.7 million international travellers – about 9% of potential trips – avoid visiting the US every year because of the problem.

With each overseas travellers spending an average of nearly $4,500, that translates to $11.8 billion lost annually directly to travel industry businesses.

If reforms were in place to guarantee the primary inspection process did not exceed 30 minutes, the resulting surge in visitors would generate around $3.5 billion in positive economic impact and create 24,000 jobs.