Obama Turns to Tourism in Latest Bid to Spur Economy

Sparking economic growth through tourism is the latest pitch from President Barack Obama, who’s ramping up his jobs message leading into November’s U.S. congressional elections.

Obama today signed a document that will turn almost 500,000 acres of New Mexico wilderness into a protected national monument.

“Legend has it that Apache Chief Geronimo hid in these mountains,” he said at a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington. “They are a spectacular site,” filled with deer, antelope, falcons and mountain lions, he said.

U.S. tourism in March, the most recent month available, totaled $5.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In unadjusted dollars, that was the second-highest monthly total on record.

Obama praised ranchers, tribal leaders and local hunters for working with the administration on the designation.

Tourism’s just one area of the economy Obama has been touting for potential growth.

Obama also has been pushing this week to attract foreign investment in the U.S. and to boost infrastructure spending.

Today, Obama created the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico, with the White House saying a new national monument can spur $7.4 million in annual economic activity.

‘Small-Scale’ Proposal

Focusing on tourism is “a small-scale kind of proposal, but it’s one that especially at this time in the summer that people will like to hear about,” Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not the kind of proposal that’s going to solve the sluggish economic growth that this country faces.”

Joblessness declined in April to 6.3 percent seasonally adjusted, the lowest level since September 2008, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Some of the decrease was driven by a decline in labor-force participation to 62.8 percent, from 65 percent the previous month.

Tomorrow, Obama heads to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to deliver a speech on tourism and jobs. Last week, Obama helped dedicate a museum on the site of the World Trade Center in New York to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their almost 3,000 victims.

Earlier this week, Obama met with executives from companies including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, and Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, to talk about bringing foreign companies’ jobs to the U.S. and keeping those of U.S.-based companies here.

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