ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Jake Tapper report:
ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on Main Street USA in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, President Obama today promoted the need for a strategy to encourage international tourism and boost job creation in the battleground state of Florida, and across the country, ahead of the 2012 election.
“The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. It’s that simple,” the president said. “That’s why we’re all here today, to tell the world that America is open for business.”
Announcing his goal to make America the “top tourist destination in the world,” Obama outlined plans to speed up the visa process and make it easier for tourists in fast-growing nations such as China, India and Brazil to travel to the United States.
Tourists from these countries spend more than $5,000 per trip, according to the White House, and one job is created for every 65 additional people who visit the United States.
Streamlining the visa process has “enormous” potential to create jobs in the United States, Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Robert Iger told ABC News.
“Changing our visa policy and investing more in the process to make it easier for people to get visas and travel to the United States would be a great boon for the American economy because the international tourist comes, stays longer, spends money, and that creates jobs,” Iger said.
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.
Obama’s trip to Florida comes before the Jan. 31 presidential primary, although the White House claims the decision to make the announcement in the contested state was not political.
“We’ve got the best product to sell. I mean, look at where we are,” the president said as he stood in front of Cinderella Castle. “We’ve got the most entertaining destinations in the world.”
Even the president seemed swept up by the “most magical place on earth.”
“I confess, I am excited to see Mickey,” Obama said. “It’s always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me.”
While he was standing at a premier commercial destination, the president also emphasized the nation’s natural wonders and monuments.
Republicans, however, claim today’s event marked yet another stop on the president’s campaign trail.
“We need to call this visit today what it actually is,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. “It’s a campaign trip to a very important battleground state of Florida where the president, quite frankly, is doing very poorly in the polls, at best.”
“Now, I know there is nothing wrong with a president campaigning and we’ve seen it before but this president gets the blue ribbon because he doesn’t seem to do anything else but campaign, certainly doesn’t do anything else well except campaign and raise money,” he said.