As part of his efforts to promote travel and tourism within the U.S., President Obama on Thursday visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., making him the first sitting president to visit the tourist attraction.
"I love baseball, America loves baseball, it continues to be our national pastime," he said. "For any baseball fan out there, you've got to make a trip out here."
He added, "Believe it or not, places like this institution, the Baseball Hall of Fame have something to do with jobs and economic growth."
Travel within the United States supports nearly 8 million jobs. The Cooperstown Hall of Fame draws nearly 300,000 visitors annually, bringing more than $160 million into the Otsego County economy.
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To boost those numbers even further, the president in 2012 launched a "National Travel and Tourism Strategy" with the goal of bringing 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. On Thursday, he took a series of executive actions to make it easier for international travelers to visit the U.S.
First, he's signing an executive order to expedite the entry process for travelers, starting with the 15 largest airports. The process will be led by the Commerce and Homeland Security Departments. Additionally, DHS is expanding the use of technology, such as automated passport control kiosks, to streamline the entry process. Lastly, different government agencies are launching new marketing efforts to encourage travelers to visit the U.S.
"Tourism translates into jobs, and it translates into economic growth," Mr. Obama said. Travelers "don't just check out the [Hall of Fame], they rent cars, they stay at hotels, they eat at restaurants." The employees who work at those hotels and restaurants, he said, "have the kind of jobs that can't be offshored."
Mr. Obama added, "Nothing says 'Made in America' better than the Empire State Building or the Hoover Dam."
Earlier in the day, the president had a private White House meeting with executives from relevant businesses, including Wyndham Hotel Group President Geoff Ballotti, Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford, Hilton Worldwide President Christopher Nassetta and several others.
Additionally, the White House on Thursday released a report on the growing tourism industry and the ways the administration has contributed to that. For instance, the State Department issued 9.2 million visas in 2013, up 42 percent since 2010.
Mr. Obama Thursday gave a glowing review of the Hall of Fame and noted that he contributed the jacket he wore when he threw out the first pitch at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game.
"There was also some interest in the jeans I wore that night," he said, referencing his infamous "dad" jeans. "But Michelle retired those jeans quite a while back."