President Barack Obama walks to the pitcher's mound before throwing a baseball during an unannounced stop to surprise members of the Northwest little league baseball teams at Friendship park in Washington, Monday, May 19, 2014.
President Obama will visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Thursday to discuss the connection between tourism and jobs.
Obama is the first sitting president to visit the Hall of Fame, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
"The fact that a sitting president has not visited here in our first 74-plus years, it was surprising to get the call, but exciting to realize that the chief executive would be delivering a speech on tourism from a place that thrives on it," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said Tuesday. Each year, the baseball museum attracts about 300,000 visitors to upstate New York.
In 2012, Obama launched a national travel and tourism strategy, aiming to attract 100 million international tourists each year by 2021. The White House says they are on track to meet that goal; international tourists increased from 55 million in 2009 to 70 million in 2013.
That increase comes hand in hand with an economic boost — those 70 million tourists spent $180.7 billion, according to the White House.
"When most people think of travel and tourism, they think of national parks," said Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients. "They don't think about jobs and growth, but that's what tourism represents."
The White House has released a report, Increasing Tourism to Spur Economic Growth, that details the administration's efforts to increase tourism, and highlights the economic benefits of doing so:
Increasing Tourism to Spur Economic Growth
"Tourism is America’s most important, and largest, services export: growth in international visitors has created roughly 175,000 American jobs over the past five years," according to the White House. "Each overseas visitor spends on average $4,500 per visit, at American hotels, shops, restaurants, and other domestic businesses."
Obama will sign a presidential memorandum Thursday to expedite entry times for international travelers, beginning with the 15 largest airports in the U.S. The White House pointed to gains at the Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare airports where streamlined processes have reduced wait times.
The White House also boasted significant improvements in processing visas for international travelers.
"The State Department issued 9.2 million visas in 2013, up 42% since 2010," according to the White House. "Waiting periods for visas in important markets like Brazil and China have dropped from as high as several months to less than five days on average."
In addition to working on improving the travel experience in the U.S., the administration is working with BrandUSA to encourage travelers from abroad.
The president's speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame is scheduled to begin at noon Eastern.
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