Welcome to the US. Now, Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles…

The ridiculously weak US dollar is supposed to provide at least a few advantages to the poor Americans who are stuck with them. For example, we should expect more international tourism, increased consummerism, and a boost to hotels and restaurants. But that’s not happening. Foreign tourists are shunning the United States because they are appalled by the way they are treated trying to enter this country.

British tourists turn their backs on America

Fewer Britons are visiting the United States than in the year 2000, despite an exchange rate that makes holidays much better value than they were then. This week, when the pound rose to $2.07, its highest level against the dollar for 26 years, the US Office of Travel and Tourism Industries released figures that confirm how badly tourism from Britain has been suffering since the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the measures enacted in response to them.

Now why is that? (As if you couldn’t guess.)

I know there is nothing I enjoy more than a surprise rectal exam upon arriving at my vacation destination. How about you?

With the collapse of the dollar making everything in the US cheap beyond belief, you’d think that the tourists would be clammoring to stay and play. This should have been a record year for the US travel industry, in line with a rapid rise in global tourism and our peso-like currency.

Discover America Partnership (DAP), an umbrella body of leading figures in the US tourism industry, is working to cut waiting times at airport arrivals, streamline customs controls and offer a friendlier welcome in an attempt to attract more holidaymakers.

Unfortunately, it estimates that since 2001 international visitors to Boston have fallen by 25 per cent, to Miami by 33 per cent, to Chicago by 21 per cent and to Los Angeles by 29 per cent.

For starters, our visitors (with their tourist cash) are now required to have prints taken of all 10 fingers. But that is only for starters. Something like this can be even more difficult if you have a criminal record and don’t know the documents you need to travel to the USA. If you’re Candian, you will need a US entry waiver with a criminal record; once you have this, travel to the USA is much simpler.

A spokesman for the Discover America Partnership said: “Ten-finger scan technology will improve security and streamline the entry process. However, deployment of the technology may be misconstrued as unwelcoming and intrusive, further discouraging inbound overseas travel.”

Ya think? Find out how grossed out US visitors really are, below.

The only way we can really understand what we have done to ourselves and the world’s perception of the financially poor, paranoid, and uninformed Americans — is to read what our far wealthier and more worldly visitors have to say about us.

So, without further ado:

The hypocrisy in their Welcome signs and the pledges from the immigration service is appalling. They clearly don’t want us there but one day they will miss our money. I don’t agree with claims that New York is the exception. My recent arrival at Newark was met with hostility and incompetence.


We live in NZ and have a house in Italy. There is no way we will travel via the States anymore and put up with the rudeness and uncivility of the immigration staff there. It is sad as we would enjoy travelling around now we are retired. I am told they pay peanuts and that is why they employ monkeys! It would take a lot of charm school to make us change our minds! My son in law (a surgeon) was asked when travelling to a conference in the US why he had to go there..was there not one in the country he was living in? Such a welcome!


Treating potential tourists and so-called friends as criminals-they deserve everything they get! I have even been denied entry myself (as i am a frequent visitor), because they perceived me as trying to emmigrate there.


the US immigration authority should remember that first impressions count.there obviously needs to be good security but unfriendly and over zelous staff put an opening damper on any new arrivals.promotional films should be on the inbound flight not at the arrival airport where arrivals are too busy with luggage etc to stop for a film show.


The entry formalities into the US are demeaning. They have the right to impose whatever security checks they want, we have the right to holiday elsewhere. As a retiree I spent 3 months a year in the States until 3 years ago. Now South Africa provides a fantastic alternative

Teaching people to smile (to distract the poor punters from their misery) won’t solve anything although hiring and training enough immigation personnel to reduce the delays would help


I have not been to America for many years, mainly because there whole attitude to tourists is very unfriendly and agressive. Also as a protest about there invasion of Iraq


I’m married to an American and travel to Atlanta at least once a year to visit the in-laws. Once you’re in the country the people are wonderful – far more outgoing and friendly than us Brits in general, and customer service runs rings around anything you get in the UK. Its just such a shame that the airport security / immigration staff are (and of course there are exceptions) generally so rude and unwelcoming. Oh, and don’t get me started on US airlines – how on earth are Delta still in the air, terrible planes and awful in-flight service? Sort those two things out and I think visitor numbers would soar.


I refuse to visit a country that will fingerprint me on entry. If I want to be treated like a criminal, I’ll go and do a crime. Many people often can feel discriminated against when asked to give their fingerprints when they try to enter a country, this might be because you’re never really told what the information is used for. It’s mainly used to keep all people safe by identifying everyone in the country. If you wanted to learn more about the reasons fingerprints are taken to put your mind at ease, you could always click here to read more on the topic.


I am one of those who no longer wishes to visit the USA. Last time we travelled from Hawaii to Canada, three of our four suitcases were opened and the contents very much disturbed and my spare diabetic blood test needles were taken out of a sealed plastic bag and handled by who knows whom, thus rendering them totally unusable. This despite having a copy of my prescription firmly attached. I do not think this invasion of my medical privacy could in any way be attributed to the need to fight terrorism. More to terrorising tourists.

Until the US can respect other people’s property and not damage it, until people can be allowed to queue for the loo in American airspace and until George Bush is replaced by a President with a bit more common sense then, alas the country will struggle to increase tourism.


Interesting stats… I’d thought it was just me that felt this way. 2007 will be the first year for about ten years I haven’t flown translatlantic, having once made as many as 6 trips a year for business, holiday, or while based in the US for three years studying for a Masters degree.

The US can’t reasonably expect foreigners to want to visit their country when its own immigration officers seem so disbelieving of our reasons for wanting to visit.

My last visit was to Minneapolis last winter for a wedding. Even when shown a hotel reservation, wedding invitation and return ticket for 4 days later, and provided with the complete history of my acquaintance with both groom and bride (and their citizenship status) the unbelievably rude immigration official was incredulous.

He proceeded to ask a series of irrelevant and intrusive questions: for example, when asked my job, I told him I was a UK civil servant in department X and showed him my business card. He then rudely demanded to know precisely what I did there. Eventually, I said that as a fellow civil servant I was sure he understood that some aspects of my work were confidential, and anyway, were hardly relevant to the matter in hand. He snapped that it was his country that I was trying to enter, on his sufferance, and if I didn’t like it, I was very welcome to turn round and take the plane straight home again. Charming.

We glared at each other for a moment (during which time I seriously considered his suggestion as an attractive option) then he silently stamped my passport. But it was too late: I’d just decided I was going to take a very long extended holiday – away from the US.


Numbers will never pick up until the Americans understand customer service. ‘Have a nice day’ is pointless if never meant.

While I have never had any agressive behaviour at Inmigration all too often the response lacks politeness. While O’Hare is effectient and friendly Atlanta is the pits. Here the staff have no idea how to process passemgers; my passport was scanned and then all the details retyped by hand and everyone else had the same thing. This meant that the 2 minute check promised takes over 5 minutes. But, do not even mention LAX!!

Fingerprinting does not increase security; proper vigilance does. If Houston and DFW think a 7 minute video will help then they are mistaken. It is the fact it takes over 7 minutes that is the problem!!

I will still go back regularly. I decided originally not to return when Immigration was increased but decided it was better to return and get the locals to face what was being done in its name; everybody is appalled. However, one should bear in mind that even the Americans take forever to get into their own country and even to fill-in forms to do so!

One should just remember that the Immigration checkes are done by (failed?) law enforcemeet officers with guns and a unifrom. Just watch what happens now ‘ours’ are getting uniforms though, luckily, not guns!


I’m not remotely surprised fewer British tourists are visiting the United States. The security and immigration procedures in the United States are truly horrible. I have recently received friendlier, more professional treatment entering countries like (communist) Cuba and (communist) China than the United States. American security and immigration staff at the airports have a terrible attitude and are far too surly and aggressive.

This upsets me because I have loved America all my life, and still do – despite this temporary problem.

It doesn’t matter how low the dollar goes. Sensible people don’t want to spend any money, even a small amount, visiting a country that currently gives them such a hostile reception.


I am in Florida at present. Arrival in Miami was, as it usually is, busy and crowded with long lines for immigration. This time we had our son and his family with us includng two small boys. We were taken to the head of an empty line and treated pleasantly, again as usual.

The only time there was a problem was when I, aged 65 at the time, female and clearly English, upon landing at Baltimore was taken for questioning to an anteroom and kept there. My husband was allowed to come with me, but our friends waiting for us were not allowed to be told anything and after over an hour were pretty convinced that we had not caught the plane. Luckily we emerged just as they were about to leave the airport.

The reason for all this was that I had a stamp in my passport for Malaysia. I had to explain that we had lived in Singapore for five years and if you want to drive anywhere by car, there is no other place to go and anyway, did they know that Malaysia is a popular tourist dstination?


I went to New York to present a paper at a conference – I’m a professor of economics. I was treated so badly, I expect because I am brown, and have a Muslim name, though I’m agnostic. The immigration officer was aggressive, rude and I left in a state of shock. I was unable to sleep at night I was so scared. I will never go back, even if it’s for work.


The United States fears have turned to paranoia, with the culture of a welcoming nation tossed out the window. Customs and security measures are but a tip of the iceberg of a US that is increaslingly aggressive to foreign nations. The reduction in US inbound toursim is not only the consequence of hightened security and irritating arrogant customs agents, but the reflection that the worlds perception of the United States is no longer that of a welcoming, friendly and open minded country.

Perhaps when the US reverts to a more carring and cooperative international political approach, will people and potential tourist return… In the mean, i will stay away from paranoid land…


We used to regularly holiday in the USA, but even before 9/11 we were constantly doubled checked at security & ALWAYS picked out in ‘random’ security gate checks. My husband whose is French & whose origins are Jewish was born in Morocco like many French people in the 50’s. To add to our guilt we have also made the ‘error’ of holidaying once in Tunisia, with resulting stamps in our passports. Due to the total ignorance of so many Americans about world events, geography & history my husband was always mistaken for a Muslim, & by the way the majority of Muslims are not terrorists anyway! If it was like that pre 9/11, I just cannot be bothered with the hastle post 9/11. Holidays are meant to be stress free & enjoyable. And who wants to go to a country which can vote in a president who is a complete idiot & who stole the presidency 1st time round? No thank you, there are more wecoming places to visit.


I shall never return to the USA.

Common courtesy costs nothing, but for the same price you can visit the USA and be intimidated, insulted and made to feel like a criminal by aggressive officials.

For business and pleasure, I prefer to visit India and China – the people are so polite, the countries are amazing and the exchange rates make the US Dollar look very expensive.


Tourism from the UK down 20% with the dollar at 2 to the £! Wait until the dollar is back to a more normal $1.60 to the pound – empty aircraft crossing the Atlantic and somebody in the Clinton/Obama administration (possibly) wondering how that happened.

I had many enjoyable holidays in the US between 1995 and 2004, but stopped visiting after the introduction of iris scanning and fingerprinting. The US is the only country in the world where tourism is regarded as a criminal activity with all visitors subjected to an arrest procedure on arrival. It’s easier to enter China.

Cut the garbage. Just come clean and admit – Homeland Security would much prefer all visitors to stay home. I know when I am not welcome – my tourist money has gone elsewhere and will not be back.


The experience of going through US immigration and customs definitely blighted my enjoyment of a trip to New York in January. After a long flight, having your fingerprints taken and an Iris scan is the last thing you need as it borders on xenophobic and makes you feel very unwelcome. UK customs are so different in comparison. I loved New York but probably won’t return to the US.


It is impossible for anyone with HIV to enter the USA, even if they are well and no risk to anyone. If you admit to being HIV positive, they simply won’t let you in, if you hide the fact and they search your luggage and find medication, you’ll risk being detained in inhuman conditions, your health jeopardised as you may be separated from your tablets, and then deported. But of course, Americans with HIV can travel wherever they want, and some of them even get treatment outside the USA as their own country will only give proper care to those with valid medical insurance – which you can’t get, if you have a chronic condition. Keep it up, USA, just another reason to despise your methods and go elsewhere.


If your grand parents travel from Canada to the US by bus it is now US policy that are each taken into a small room and checked by drug dogs. They have become so evil it is almost funny. I mean as dumb as they are they must even see the comparisons to Nazi Germany. No one should travel to the US for any reason.


I have just returned from a visit to Phoenix. On arrival at LA whilst transferring I got the dreaded ssss extra security. I had to walk barefoot across filthy floors. Was segregated from my 3 children in perspex box and ended up feeling completely violated. My children cried when they say what was happening to me.

By the end of it all I wanted to do was go home and I had only just arrived. I will not be returning. Ever.


The Dept of Homeland Security are causing inordinate grief to ordinary travellers by there completly unfocused approach to security.I’ve had 3 expensive suitcases wrecked when the locks were forced open, I’ve stood in immigration and security queues for hours, I’ve missed connecting flights, I’ve been photgraphed and finger printed like a criminal, I’ve been treated like s*** by US officials …….. no one needs it not even at +$2 to the £1


Why would I want to visit a country whose immigration policy treats legitimate visitors like me as though we were criminals? I have been to the US in the past, but I have absolutely no intention of returning, whether for a holiday or to transit en route to South America or New Zealand. Sorry US, but I’ll spend my holidays (and money) elsewhere.


While there have been some recent improvements in attitude among immigration officers at some of the entry airports (such as Atlanta and Charlotte), the whole entry procedure remains unwelcoming, and often posts are understaffed – forty-five minute waits to reach an entry desk at Atlanta is not uncommon, with most of the desks unmanned during busy hours. Nevertheless, the impression remains that you are likely to be interrogated by an armed guard with a harassed expression and a wish to find a reason to deny you entry – and I get this myself, even though I have a US green card and have lived here 25 years.


I will not visit the USA again.In my case it is because of the way I was treated by aggressive security personnel on arrival at Los Angeles airport on my last visit. Terrified and humiliated I eventually left in a state of shock. I am 70 now and do not need that experience on my travels so sadly will not make any more visits until radical improvements in entry procedures are implemented. Sad because my only sister and many friends and relatives live there.


And after Japan, being surrounded by fat people is so depressing. Made my last visit for this lifetime. Plenty of cheaper countries in this region if shopping’s your bag. Nice country, nice people, shame about the government.


Why not fingerprint Americans too? After all, the majority of criminals in the US prisons are US citizens. And with the dollar so low, there are less American tourists so why not fingerprint them when they arrive in Europe so they get a taste of what it is like

I know I’m proud to be an American.

How about you?


Skip to comment form

    • Pluto on November 25, 2007 at 8:15 am

    ’nuff said

    • Tigana on November 25, 2007 at 11:10 am


    • Tigana on November 25, 2007 at 11:12 am


  1. By taking apart America they get rid of our excessive energy consumption.


    • banger on November 25, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    well, what you are describing is incompetence. It is something that seems to dominate nearly all government institutions. Katrina and Iraq/Afghanistan are more serious examples of this though much of the incompetence in those areas was driven by simple corruption.  

  2. sooo ….. ya’ll come back now, ya hear!

  3. I have to go through US customs to return to the US between 4 and 6 times a year.  After you go through immigration, which is where I expect to be asked questions about what I’m doing, you have to go through customs.  I’ve been questioned in both places.  By far the rudest ime questioning is at customs.  You have an officer who is ostensibly there to make sure that you don’t bring in ebola or too much liquor asking questions about where you’re staying, who you’re seeing, why you’re doing that, how long the person you’re visiting has been in the US.  Are they asking me this?  No.  They’re asking it to people who have non-US passports.  Excuse me for asking, but the people were already admitted to the US when they passed through immigration.  So WTF is going on?  They want to search the people’s suitcases for drugs, money, bomb making material, dirty books, meat with mad cow disease, have at it.  Of course, that hardly seems to happen.  Instead, they’d rather ask questions.  This pointless interrogation while a line of 100 people with suitcases waits so they can be asked similar questions is just bogus.

  4. Mostly because I’m very business oriented and when business is conducted well everybody can be the happier and more nourished for it and when business is conducted unethically and corruptly and Deciderly and Arbustoly this is exactly how fucked up every good and wonderful becomes.  You know, I’d cry but I’ve already made $500 for my retirement by shifting a small investment into foreign currencies so WTF…..I’ll just carry on and keep reading the blogs and your diaries and someday we will have enough of this bullshit I suppose.

  5. for the Bin Laden family who were all courteously rounded up right after 9/11 when no one else could fly and personally escorted out of the purview of annoying security clearance precautions, nosey questions and any threat of “stereotyping” them as Arabs.


  6. tangential, if not entirely OT, but I’m going to take advantage of Pluto being around to pose the question:

    Found this story over at Yahoo, re Nico Sarko’s state visit to China–apparently he’s called on the PRC to revalue the yuan so as to level the trade inbalance between that country and La Belle France. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20

    AP, with its usual in-depth reporting, doesn’t say what a revaluation in favor of the euro would do to the dollar.

    What say you, Pluto? (And I guess this does tie in, after all, as it’s largely fear of various things that’s driving the horrific border nastiness, and the weak dollar ain’t helpin’.)

    • sharon on November 25, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    well done.  i’m forwarding to a kiwi friend whose brother-in-law has a personal story to tell about lax immigration.  he refuses to fly through the u.s. anymore.  and my friend says he is a rather conservative businessman.

    i hope to go to australia/nz in may.  hope my activity on the internets doesn’t clip my wings.  

    pluto, if you don’t mind, i’d love to know the source for your excellent photo.  i’m working on a project and it could be the perfect fit.  thanks for writing a great diary and any help you can give.

    • Zwoof on November 26, 2007 at 2:59 am

    from China last year, I was pulled aside at customs and asked what I did in China. I told them I was an English Teacher and they asked if I had any proof.  I just happened to have a Chinese newspaper in my bag with a front page photo of me holding a textbook surrounded by Chinese kids. It was a story about my volunteer work at a local orphanage.  

    The customs guy says. “But it’s in Chinese.”


  7. By pissing off all the real tourists they will no longer travel here.  Ergo, any ‘tourist’ must be a terrorist.  See,

    problem solved.

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