Visitors to America: Data for great stories (if reporters are allowed)

The Department of Homeland Security issued a report on the number of legal visitors the United States had from other countries.

Nonimmigrant Admissions to the United States: 2011 

In this little gem are some interesting numbers for LOCAL reporters to find some great stories.

For example, the top five states for international visitors are:

  • California (10,306,971 visitors)
  • Florida (6,690,019 visitors)
  • Texas (6,559,787 visitors)
  • New York (6,226,198 visitors)
  • Arizona (1,800,715 visitors)

Given that Mexico sent 17 million legal visitors (about 32 percent of all international visitors) to the United States, California, Texas and Arizona with their large Hispanic populations are natural places to visit.

And Florida is a natural for the rest of Latin America.

What the DHS report DOES NOT cover is the value to the United States of these visitors.

Thanks to a Florida business group study we know that for every 82 U.S. visas issued to Brazilians,  one job in Florida is created. Last year Brazil sent  1.5 million visitors to the United States. If you take that number by itself, that means about 18,000 jobs were created from just Brazilians alone.

We can’s assume that all the Brazilians went to Florida. But we can work with the number of international visitors to Florida — 6,690,019 — and assume the 82 visas=1 job formula works in all cases. That means, Florida had 81,585 jobs created as a DIRECT result of international visitors. (6,690,019 visitors divided by 82).

So what is the visa/jobs ratio in other states? I don’t know. But I bet an enterprising reporter might track down a business group in his/her area to see if a similar study was done. Then, that reporter would have a very good place to start writing about how international visitors create jobs. And maybe even go deeper and write about what kinds of jobs. What are the pay levels of these jobs? What are the skill levels needed for these jobs?

Other story possibilities are endless:

  • What is the process foreign visitors have to go through to see local attractions? (Visa waiver? Visa interview process?)
  • How much do they spend in the local area?
  • What are the main things they like/dislike about traveling in America?
  • How have local businesses changed their practices/products to accommodate international visitors? (Or have they?)
Maybe the draw to the area is not a particular attraction (Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, etc.). Maybe the people are coming to visit family and friends.
  • So then, why did so many people from Country X settle in your area?
  • Why are they staying?
  • Did the job/education opportunities in your area meet their expectations?
  • What kind of small businesses have been established to cater to the immigrants and international visitors?
And remember that more visitors to the United States helps the US balance of payments. (A complicated story but one that can be told by explaining how local businesses that are attractive to international visitors help protect the dollar overseas.)

Too few Americans understand the organic links between the rest of the world and their daily lives. And, likewise and unfortunately, too few reporters see the link.

Reporters in states with lots of international visitors have so many great opportunities to put the LOCAL and the GLOBAL into context for readers/viewers/listeners. It is a shame that so many pass by (or don’t even see) these opportunities.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

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