Updated:ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.,None —
President Barack Obama announced a plan that boosts tourism and creates much-needed jobs in the area, during a speech at Walt Disney World on Thursday.
"I'm pleased to be at Disney World," said Obama. "We've got greatest country in the world. People want to come."
The president's plan would make it easier for international travelers to come to the U.S.
Obama said tourism is now America's No. 1 export, employing about 7.5 million Americans.
However, Obama said if the process is streamlined, another one million jobs could be created in the next decade.
The iconic Cinderella castle peaked over the president's shoulder as he announced big plans to funnel more tourists into Central Florida.
"We want people to come not only to Epcot, but the Everglades as well," said Obama. "America is open for business."
The president's plan includes making the State Department process visas with emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India up to 40 percent faster.
Obama said he wanted the plan in place by this year.
He also said he wanted to make it easier for frequent travelers to be approved quicker. Tourism officials said that could mean other emerging areas, such as Argentina and Chile, turn into funnels for Central Florida.
"All you do is go to the Orlando Airport and see the bags that they bring. It's a huge opportunity," said Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association.
WFTV learned that China is expected to see a 135 percent increase in tourism in the next six years, and could become a pipeline for Florida.
"Florida is a huge market. They see TV, they see Florida on TV. It's one of three or four markets that can gain hugely from China," Dow said.
For small business owners in Central Florida like Ruben Perez, it's music to his ears.
Perez said he's ridden out the recession by closing down some of his bigger restaurants, and instead focusing on smaller airport restaurants.
However, with the new plan and a down U.S. dollar, Perez said doesn’t care what country they come from as long as they come.
"You got to think out of the box. When things get tight, you think out of the box," said Perez.
Tourism officials estimate that with every 65 visitors, it's enough to create one new tourism-related job.
Also, the average international tourist spends $4,000 when they come to Central Florida.
Obama is the fourth U.S. president to visit a Walt Disney World park while in office.
He was only the second to go to the Magic Kingdom after President Jimmy Carter.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. both visited Epcot in the early '80s and '90s.
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