Part of the problem is the difficulty tourist and business people face obtaining a visa to enter the US.
Wait times of almost a year are not uncommon in some parts of the world.
The US tourism industry is pushing the State Department to speed things up, saying billions of dollars and millions of potential American jobs are in play.
And you can't blame them because when it comes to sight-seeing - the view from here in the Land of the Free is that it's tough to beat the USA!
Fifty states come equipped with some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world.
Where I'm based, in Washington DC, you can see some of the most famous locations like the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Capitol, all within walking distance of each other.
Overseas visitors ploughed well over $100bn into the US economy in the first 10 months of last year ... and while their spending is back to where it was before the 2008 global financial collapse, tough visa rules introduced after the attacks of September 11, 2001, mean the over-all number of international visitors to the US is down in a decade - from 17% to 12% - and that's hurting US tourism jobs.
"We are shovel ready ... you don't have to create America we're here. You don't have to create the hotels, the destinations, the theme parks. So to make our visa system more efficient to attract those visitors so that we can bring what we believe is over a million jobs this decade."
For countries like Brazil and China with lots of money to spend - and where outbound travel is forecast to grow 38% and 151% respectively in the next 10 years - waiting up to a year for clearance the US often leads tourists to look elsewhere.
Patricia explained more: "The tour operator tells you, well I wish I could get you down to Florida but we can't, we can't even get you in until March for an interview. Why don't I send you to Paris instead?"
The US travel industry wants Congress to make Brazil one of the more than 30 countries in the visa-waiver scheme and it's calling for lengthier visas to be given to Chinese travelers.
The State Department says security is the top priority ... but it's well aware of the economic implications of speeding up visa processing and its moving staff into vetting positions at US embassies as fast as it can.
David Donahue, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services - he's the man you seen on those Green Card application advisory videos on the State Department's website.
"I think everyone in this administration cares about jobs ... it's a key administration goal to make sure we that we give this economy every opportunity to create jobs and certainly tourism is a great place for good jobs they can't be outsourced they have to be done here."
The tourists are clearly out there with money to spend ... the US knows they're coming from many emerging economies not just China and Brazil.
The question is can enough be done to get them into the USA quick enough before they end up spending their tourist dollars elsewhere in the world.
- Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License