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Obama Pushes Tourism Changes In Florida

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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque       (UNITED STATES)

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama made a visit to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World near Orlando on Thursday to promote his new tourism initiative and to get a jump on the Republican presidential candidates who are about to overwhelm the state ahead of January 31.

Obama’s new executive order, part of his “We Can’t Wait” campaign, is set to try and increase travel and tourism across the country.

Florida’s lifeblood is tourism and with it being a battleground state in November, Obama chose to make the announcement here. It also allowed the President to capture some of the limelight that will be eventually focused on the GOP nominees.

“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” said President Obama. “We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try.”

According to the White House, the travel and tourism industry projected that working to increase the U.S.’ share in international tourism could create more than 1 million American jobs over the next decade.

In South Florida, hundreds of thousands of tourists from Brazil and South America visit annually. Tourism officials say those visitors spend billion of dollars.

The Chin family is from Argentina, they recently spent $10,000 dollars in a one week shopping trip here. The trouble for them and many families from Latin America is getting a visa to come here.

“You just can’t say, ‘I think we’re going to go to the United States’ and go the next week,” asked CBS4 reporter Ted Scouten.

“That’s impossible,” said Kim Chin.

For the Chins to get visa, it could take two to three months just to get an appointment.

“We’re geared up to handle that international business,” said Nicki Grossman, President of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitor and Convention Bureau. “But there’s a hiccup and that hiccup is called a visa for visitors who want to come from Central and South America.”

Part of President Obama’s plan is to streamline the visa process, making it easier for tourists to come to the U.S. That’s welcomed news to tourism officials, as well as merchants.

“A very affluent consumer comes here from the Brazilian market,” said Anabel LLopes from Aventura Mall. “They know the brands, they know what they’re looking for.”

The new initiative will specifically target countries that have growing middle classes including: China, Brazil, and India. Each of those countries are expected to send more travelers to the United States by as much as 274 percent by 2016.

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