Insecure About U.S. Border Security
Date: Tuesday, November 21 2006
Many travellers expect unfriendly reception from American customs agents, survey finds
Nov. 21, 2006. 05:26 AM
WASHINGTON—Visitors to this country may see a number of looming perils, from terrorism to crime, but according to a survey released yesterday nothing compares to the fright they get at the airport once they get off the plane.
The Discover America Partnership, a consortium of companies in the U.S. travel industry, said their survey of more than 2,000 international travellers from 15 countries found 54 per cent said they were treated with arrogance, rudeness or disrespect by customs and border protection agents.
Two in three said they feared they would be detained if they made a tiny mistake on their travel documents or uttered a misstatement to the agent.
When respondents were asked to list the least travel-friendly destination in the world from among 10 countries, 39 per cent chose the U.S., more than twice the number who identified the Middle East as the least travel-friendly region.
Only 2 per cent identified Canada as the country with the least respectful immigration officials.
(Of those surveyed, 29 per cent had been to the U.S. within the last 18 months, 19 per cent had travelled to the Middle East and 9 per cent had been to Canada.)
This front-line attitude is hurting the U.S. travel industry, tarnishing the country's image abroad and contributing to a downturn in business and leisure travel, the consortium says.
"This country since 9/11 has viewed foreign travellers as more of a threat than an opportunity," said Geoff Freeman, the executive director of the partnership. "They (border officials) do not understand that foreign travellers are also key to our national security. They go home as ambassadors for our country.''
Freeman said there has been a 17 per cent decline in total travel to the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and a 10 per cent dip in business travel from 2004 to 2005.