RALEIGH, NC - The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development applauded Thursday's initiatives by President Barack Obama to boost international tourism.

"We've been actively positioning North Carolina as a preferred international travel destination for nearly 20 years," said N.C. Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. "Attracting international visitors to North Carolina is very important because they tend to stay longer and spend more of their money at North Carolina businesses."

The President's initiatives, which include national parks promotion, increased tourist visa processing, and adding Charlotte Douglas International Airport and three others to the Global Entry program, are designed to bolster employment, which is at the heart of North Carolina's tourism marketing activity.

"Today's announcement marks a turning point for our industry and provides us with unparalleled opportunity to work toward a national travel and tourism strategy," said Lynn Minges, Assistant Secretary of Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding in the N. C. Department of Commerce. Minges said. "These efforts to make it easier for international visitors to get here will have a positive impact on North Carolina's economy because their spending supports jobs and adds to tax revenues in the state."
According to the U.S. Travel Association, international tourism represents a significant part of North Carolina's $17 billion tourism industry:

• International travelers spend $590 million a year in North Carolina.
• That total accounts for 7,500 jobs in the state.
• The spending generates $98 million in state and local tax revenue.

Elements of the new initiative carry special resonance for North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which routes travelers across 250 miles of scenery in the western part of the state, is the most visited section of the U.S. National Park System, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park. Other properties in the National Park System include the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national seashores.

The addition of Charlotte Douglas (CLT) to the Global Entry program, created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, makes the airport more inviting to international travelers. The airport, which ranks seventh in the world in takeoffs and landings, has nonstop direct service from more than 30 international cities.

Coinciding with today's announcement of the new national tourism initiatives, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle was sworn in as one of 32 members of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The board advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry.