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May 22, 2014

Obama puts tourism in spotlight

COOPERSTOWN — President Barack Obama, in a scheduled visit this afternoon at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, is expected to outline new strategies by administration to lure tourists from around the globe to attractions and major events in the United States.

According to the White House, the U.S. drew a record 70 million visitors from other nations in 2013. They spent an all-time high of $180.7 billion when they traveled, with each spending an average of $4,500 per visit on American hotels, restaurants and other domestic services.

Obama’s goal is to increase the number of international visitors to 100 million by the end of 2021, the White House said.

This morning, before traveling to Cooperstown, Obama is scheduled to sign a presidential memorandum whose objective is get more international tourists to spend more and see more across the 50 states. The White House said top administration officials, working with the travel industry, are taking steps to improve the entry process and reduce wait times at airports for international travelers. These wait times have already been sharply reduced at airports in Chicago and Dallas through technology upgrades and streamlining efforts, officials said.

In Cooperstown, maintenance workers were spiffing up the exterior of the Hall of Fame, and shopkeepers along Main Street were tidying up in anticipation of Obama’s visit to the national shrine for baseball.

“Everyone is putting on the best face possible,” said Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz. He said people who often hold strident political viewpoints were putting any differences they might have with the president aside to rally in support of his goal of increased tourism, a major industry for Otsego County.

“It’s going to be a completely special day,” Katz said. “Politics has been thrown out the window. To have this lead into the Memorial Day weekend is incredible. There is a feeling in the air that this is going to be a really special day.”

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