CBP is committed to improving the traveler experience upon arrival into the United States – increasing tourism and fostering economic growth while ensuring the highest level of security.
In January 2012, the President issued an Executive Order to improve traveler wait times and create a National Travel and Tourism Strategy. On May 22, 2014, the President issued a memorandum updating the progress made on the 2012 Executive Order. The President applauded the efforts of CBP’s business transformation efforts and called upon the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Commerce to continue working with private sector and advisory boards in order to further enhance the overall traveler experience as we meet the goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors annually through 2021.
CBP welcomes nearly 1 million travelers every day – 360 million per year. These visitors are vital to our Nation’s economic growth. Each visitor spends an average of $4500 per trip, representing an economic impact to the United States of $11 billion.
Despite the global economic downturn that began five years ago, the volume of international air passengers arriving in the United States has grown steadily – up 16.5% since 2009 and rising by 4.3% just since last year. That volume is expected to grow annually between 3.4% and 4.1% over the next four years. The number of international air passengers is projected to be nearly 2.4 million higher in 2014 than in 2013. However, as traveler volumes increased, CBP staffing stayed steady. As a result, wait times also increased, peaking around the summer of 2013.
Working in full partnership with private industry and local government stakeholders, CBP has demonstrated its commitment to facilitate economic growth while reducing wait times for international travelers. During the past two years, CBP has partnered with private industry and local government stakeholders to revolutionize the arrivals process through initiatives such as Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks, Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry (GE), and reimbursable service agreements.
For example, at the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports, CBP and its industry partners implemented a combination of APC and GE technology. Wait times dropped on average by 40% over 12 months and reduced the percentage of travelers facing wait times of more than 30 minutes from 30% to 14% - resulting in a new average wait time through border security of 15 minutes.
Travelers are embracing these solutions. APC usage, for example, reached 1.8 million during May 2014, and the number is expected to climb steadily during the busy summer travel season. Also, GE enrollment and usage has risen dramatically over the last three.
The impact of CBP’s transformation initiatives is evident. Wait times nationwide are 18% shorter than one year ago, with some major gateway airports seeing wait time reductions in the 25-40% range.
Looking to the Future
Strengthening our cooperation with these stakeholders (e.g., airlines, airport authorities, the hospitality industry, and a variety of industry associations) is key to improving the entire international arrival process. Working with our partners, CBP remains committed to improving the international traveler experience while maintaining the highest standards of border security.