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by Sarah J.F. Braley | May 10, 2012

Today, the White House announced a National Travel and Tourism Strategy, the culmination of a task force formed in January and headed by Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. A goal has been set to welcome 100 million international visitors a year to the United States by the end of 2021; it is estimated such numbers would generate a spend of about $250 billion in the States each year. "Travel and tourism is one of America’s most important services industry, and the scale of this is easily lost," Secretary Bryson said in a press conference. "Our goal is to make the United States the world’s top tourism destination." He added that the Commerce Department will be creating a new travel and tourism department. The new strategy outlines ways to encourage inbound traffic, including promoting improvements to the Visa Waiver Program; shortening visa interview wait times; partnering with local tourism leaders; continuing to support Brand USA, the nonprofit organization that promotes foreign travel to the U.S.; increasing consular staffing; encouraging growth in travel-related small business, and more. View the White House statement here. Welcoming the new strategy, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said, "This important step officially elevates the travel industry to what it should be: a national priority. It also recognizes the industry for its fundamental contribution to our economy, national security and public diplomacy."