Freakonomics: Arthur Frommer Answers Your Travel Questions

How much do I love the Freakonomics blog, the economics blog based on the NYT bestselling book, Freakonomics?

I think it’s my new favorite blog on the internet, that’s how much. And as the New York Times online recently decided to host it, I think more and more people are being turned on to its quirky charms.

The Freakonomics blog explores odd little economic conundrums in a way that’s common-sensical, not buried under mounds of research and indecipherable academic talk.

It’s explored the role of abortion in reducing the crime rate, the consequences of giving money to panhandlers, and the economics of a high-class Chicago brothel in the early 1900s.

Here’s a great example of Freakonomics insight: An interview with Arthur Frommer, who responds to questions from Freakonomics readers.

Frommer is a proponent of low-cost travel that bypasses big hotels for hostels and homes. His tips include getting the most out of a trip by spending “a few nights in the library” familiarizing yourself with the culture and history of your destination.

Q: As the dollar continues to fall against the euro, why aren’t more Europeans traveling to America?

A: Because of the psychological, bureaucratic, and political barriers that we have erected to hinder their travels here. In many of the countries that don’t enjoy our visa-waiver program, it takes three to four months simply to receive an appointment to apply for a visa. Once would-be travelers finally get inside one of our consulates, they are questioned about personal characteristics having nothing to do with security or terrorism, but rather with the possibility that they will overstay their visas and become illegal immigrants. One tour operator handling incoming travel from Poland recently said that half of the people he wishes to send to the U.S. are turned down for visas because they are young, single, without property or homes that they own, etc., and are thus more likely to stay in the U.S. illegally.

When people do travel here, they are treated like criminals upon arrival at customs, or, at best, received with cold discourtesy. The result of all this is that travel to the U.S. has fallen off by close to 20 percent since the year 2000, while most other countries are enjoying a rise of 20 percent or more in their incoming tourism! The decline of our own tourism industry creates a loss of more than $100 billion a year, tens of billions of dollars in tax revenues, and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Read the whole interview here.

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