Visa reforms and pre-clearance modernisation among five-point plan to boost US travel

A reform of the US visa process to meet increased travel demand and a modernisation of pre-clearance at designated foreign airports are among five initiatives being put forward to boost transatlantic passenger numbers.

US trade leaders also want to see a lifting of the limitation on liquids and other items in carry-on bags – subject of a sudden UK government U-turn earlier this month – making more use of biometrics to cover visa vetting, customs inspections and passenger screening .

The initiatives designed to modernise travel to the US also include the scaling up of one-stop security to allow passengers and their bags travelling from select international airports to bypass duplicative screening on arrival when continuing on to connecting flights.

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The measures were discussed by industry leaders on a visit to the UK last week as part of efforts to reverse a lagging rate of post-pandemic international tourism recovery to the US.

Members of a Commission on Seamless and Secure Travel set up by the US Travel Association met counterparts at Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh airport, British Airways, International Airlines Group and Virgin Atlantic to discuss ways to improve inbound passenger numbers.

The commission is chaired by former acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and includes ex-Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye among a group of past US government officials and private sector experts.

A report by the commission is expected to be delivered to lawmakers and officials in Washington this autumn, coinciding with the US residential election.

The commission was created by the US Travel Association after a Euromonitor International report ranked the US 17 out of 18 major countries in terms of global travel competitiveness earlier this year.

US Travel chief executive Geoff Freeman said: “It’s time for US officials to make a leap forward and put available tools in place at US airports and borders to securely facilitate millions of new inbound visitors.

“With the World Cup [2026], the summer Olympics [2028] and other milestones just ahead of us, a decade of major events is on the horizon, and we must be prepared to efficiently and securely process millions of travellers to fully realise the benefits of serving as a host country.

“With the commission’s critical work nearing the mid-way point, security-based solutions that will give the US a roadmap to best-in-class traveller security practices and grow our share of inbound travel is coming into clear focus.”

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