Obama, in Florida, unveils plans to boost tourism

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Obama's executive order aims to: boost non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent this year; expand a Visa Waiver Program that allows participating nationals to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less without a visa; appoint a new group of chief executives to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and direct an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel and Tourism Strategy, including promoting national parks and other sites.

That was good news to Brazilian visitors Lilian Lara and Lindbergh Souza, who welcomed the change in visa procedures as they shopped along the resort's streets hours before the president's speech.

"It will make things a whole lot better," said Lara, a 22-year-old student from Sao Paolo, who is working as a summer intern at the theme park resort.

Souza said the visa process was expensive, at $500, and also time consuming, especially for Brazilians who don't live close to consuls in Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo.

"The whole process took me six months," said Souza, who welcomed the president's efforts to speed up the visa process especially for visitors from Brazil and China.

The White House insisted the president's trip to Florida was not purely political, dismissing suggestions that his itinerary was connected to a slate of upcoming Republican primaries. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said there were few tourist destinations "as iconic as Disney World" and the tourist attractions surrounding Orlando represented a fitting place to talk about the president's initiatives.

From Florida, Obama was to fly to New York City for four glitzy campaign fundraisers, including an event at the famed Apollo Theater featuring performances by Al Green and India.Arie. Tickets to that fundraiser start at $100.

The president also was to attend a $35,800 per ticket fundraiser at the home of director Spike Lee, and two small fundraisers at Daniel, an exclusive Manhattan restaurant. Tickets start at $5,000 for the first restaurant fundraiser and $15,000 for the second.

Associated Press writer Mike Schneider contributed to this report.

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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