President Obama Calls for National Travel and Tourism Strategy

Please see message below from Roger Dow, President + CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, exciting day in tourism!

Also note that Roger will be our keynote speaker at the April 5 WTA Tourism Summit.

Dear Travel Colleague:

President Obama gave tremendous visibility to our industry and priorities today when he called for the development of a national travel and tourism strategy while speaking at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The President’s remarks provide us with a unique opportunity to establish our industry as key to our country’s economic prosperity, and to make travel issues relevant during this year’s Presidential campaign. Stay tuned for an announcement next week about a new national campaign we are developing to engage the industry and seek support for our issues from candidates during this political season.

President Calls For Recommendations To Promote Travel

President Obama trumpeted the value of travel in general and by Executive Order called for the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to lead an intra-agency task force to develop for the first time ever recommendations for a strategy to promote travel opportunities throughout the U.S.

A focus of the task force will be on strategies for increasing travel and tourism jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures, including national parks, cultural and historical sites, monuments and other public lands.

Improving The Visa Process

The Executive Order also charges the Departments of State and Homeland Security with:

  • Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent this year;
  • Ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed in three weeks or less; and
  • Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program.

The President announced the State Department has nominated Taiwan for inclusion in the program.

The State Department and Department of Homeland Security announced a pilot program to speed visa processing for certain applicants in Brazil and China, including the ability to waive interviews for certain low-risk applicants.

Other Highlights

  • The President also called on the Department of Commerce to maintain a website available to the public with key information for understanding the visa process and entry times in the U.S.
  • Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make permanent the Global Entry Program, which has helped expedite clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers to the U.S. More than one million trusted travelers now have Global Entry benefits and efforts are being made to expand the program further.
  • Secretary of Commerce John Bryson announced the new Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which will be chaired by U.S. Travel board member Todd Davidson, chief executive officer of Travel Oregon. Sam Gilliland, chairman and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings, and a member of U.S. Travel’s CEO Roundtable, will serve as vice chair.

Significance of President’s Remarks

Thanks to everyone who has participated in meetings with Administration and Congressional leaders. It is a team effort and affirms my belief of what can be accomplished when we speak as an industry with a clear message and many voices.

With the President speaking to the power of travel as a tool for American business in a global economy, improving America’s image around the world, and as a tool for economic development at home, it is clear that your voice and countless hours as advocates for our industry at a local, state and federal level have paid dividends. The President’s timing couldn’t be better.

The President is embracing the power of travel and his remarks suggest a newfound appreciation for several key points:

  • Every 35 international visitors to the United States generate one American job that cannot be outsourced.
  • We need to reestablish the United States as the world’s travel destination. Our country owns just 12 percent of the global travel market — down from 17 percent a decade ago.
  • The travel experience is littered with hassles that can be eliminated. Improving the air travel experience, for example, can add $85 billion in air traveler spending, which will support 900,000 jobs.
  • Making it easier for people to attend business meetings, tradeshows and conventions boosts our economy by $263 billion annually and supports 1.7 million American jobs.
  • A plan is necessary before improvement is possible. The travel industry provides jobs for 14 million Americans and generates more than $50 billion in tax revenues for states and local communities. Travel can drive the economic recovery and put millions of Americans back to work. The president has put forward his vision and the travel industry is ready to heed the call.

Creating A National Travel and Tourism Strategy

The President’s support for the travel industry is greatly appreciated. U.S. Travel will immediately engage the Administration on policies that can benefit our country and all aspects of the travel community. Among our objectives will be for our government to pursue concrete actions to increase international travel, business travel, participation in meetings and conventions, and leisure travel throughout America. Policies we are likely to encourage include expansion of the Visa Waiver Program to Brazil, Argentina and Chile; further improvements to our entry process for international guests; streamlining the TSA experience for trusted travelers; and building an aviation system that encourages greater air travel.

While there is surely a political component to the timing of his remarks, I am hopeful the President’s pronounced commitment to our industry will lead to concrete reforms and forward-looking strategies that will benefit our industry for years to come.

Sincerely,

Roger J. Dow
President & CEO
US Travel Association