From the Times:
But a business traveler from Germany got my attention when he described what travel to the United States could be like these days. "At the airport, I was questioned very rudely for 20 minutes," he said. " 'Who are you?' 'What are you doing here?' Before unification, I was treated better at the checkpoints going into East Germany."
Whoa. What do we make of a foreign business traveler comparing his arrival in the United States with a pass through the surly gantlet at Checkpoint Charlie before the wall came down?
One thing became clear at this year's tourism council meeting, after all the happy proclamations about travel's global economic impact (leisure and business travel will account for more than $3 trillion in direct spending worldwide this year, for example). We have a problem, and Jay Rasulo, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, addressed it in a speech to more than 500 representatives from the world's travel industry.
"The U.S. share of international travel has dropped double digits since 2000, and 35 percent since 1992," he said. "Meanwhile, the global travel market is growing by leaps and bounds."
One reason to treat travelers with respect and dignity that isn't talked about much is pure economics, and it looks like the U.S. is already losing on that front.
The other thing: if even German businessmen feel hassled at the immigration desk, you know there is a real problem.