The Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize to President Barack Obama today, in a turn of events that surprised many.

Though polls suggest his administration has improved the global image of the United States, Obama’s popularity has yet to translate into any gain for the country’s tourism industry. But with pro-American sentiment on the rise globally and renewed efforts to woo foreign visitors, is the American “brand” bouncing back?

Recent studies show that the number of foreign travelers to the United States fell 10 percent in 2009 compared to the same period last year. And just last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ended Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics in the first round, despite a star-studded team of lobbyists including the President, the First Lady, and Oprah Winfrey.

In light of these setbacks, is America’s global image really improving, or is there something else holding back US tourism?

Olympic insiders have said that Chicago’s campaign was not to blame for the city’s loss. They say the funding was adequate and the venues were spectacular. The real problem may have been a matter of security.

No, safety was never a concern. Rather, the intense visa and entry requirements to gain access to the United States left some IOC officials wondering if foreign athletes and tourists would really feel welcome upon their arrival.