According to Reuters, a survey published today, which was conducted among 2,011 international travelers in 16 countries, points to some alarming image problems for the United States: USA was perceived to be the world’s most unfriendly country to visitors. Rude immigration officials and long delays in processing visas were cited as the main reasons.
More than 50% of the respondents said U.S. immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the United States for a simple mistake in their paper work or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official.
The survey, which was conducted October 19th to November 9th this year by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a group launched in September by some business leaders to promote travel to the United States and improve the country’s image abroad.
Security is of course extremely important, but should we allow it to become such an obsession that we forget about hospitality altogether? Does having rude immigration officers who instill fear in foreign visitors improve security? Or letting our bureaucrats treat foreign visa applicants with arrogance, hostility, and slow process? Well, probably not. But it could lead to a serious image problem that once it takes hold might become very difficult to change.
And we should also remember that what goes around comes around, so in addition to hurting our tourism industry, hostile treatment of foreign visitors could also make foreign territories less friendly and welcoming to American travelers. And really, do we want to be lumped into the same category as North Korea as far as immigration procedures for visitors go?
If nothing else the results of this study should be a huge red flag.