The Politics of Tourism DC Style

Washington, DC, Apr. 14th, 2009 -- The travel and tourism managers believed they had a responsive Administration judging how they pandered to them during the WTTC meetings and tourism presentations over the last 8 years. In return for their accolades they received nothing. Financially tourism to the US is way down. OK numbers may appear to be up, but those that matter, if we are to treat tourism as a business, have gone elsewhere.

Over the years I have been criticized for not pandering to the political appointees to trade associations and to the pronouncements by the Bushies. It is nothing personal, but as I travel the United States I see it first hand. But the little guy, the small hotel, guest house or attraction does not have a voice any more. It's all BIG business, Disney, Universal, Marriott and so on. Today I was pleasantly amused by this Press Release, finally the Penny dropped:

Accelerating Decline in Overseas Arrivals to United States Worsens U.S. Economic Crisis
Nationally Coordinated Travel Promotion Campaign Needed to Save U.S. Jobs, Kick-Start Economic Recover Accelerating Decline in Overseas Arrivals to United States Worsens U.S. Economic Crisis

Washington, DC – April 2009 – The U.S. Travel Association (formerly the Travel Industry Association) expressed deep concern Friday (April 10) about newly released Department of Commerce data showing that overseas arrivals to the United States plummeted nearly eight percent in January. U.S. Travel called upon Congress and the Administration to create a nationally coordinated travel promotion program to compete for overseas visitors who spend an average of $4,400 per person, per trip and are critical to America’s economic recovery.

“As any business will tell you, tough economic times demand increased investment in attracting customers,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Congress and the Administration must act now to compete for global travel dollars and reverse the accelerating decline in U.S. visitation. Increasing travel to the United States is the most efficient form of economic stimulus.”

This latest news from the U.S. Department of Commerce comes only two weeks after the announcement that 633,000 fewer overseas travelers visited the United States in 2008 than in 2000, despite the fact that 48 million more international travelers took long-haul trips in 2008 than in 2000. If U.S. overseas arrivals had kept pace with international long-haul travel trends from 2001-2008, America would have welcomed a cumulative total of 58 million more visitors, $182 billion in new spending and $27 billion in new tax revenue. These visitors would have supported 245,000 American jobs each year.

The House of Representatives passed the Travel Promotion Act in 2008. The legislation would have created a nationally coordinated promotion campaign at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. Studies show that such a campaign would attract millions of additional overseas visitors per year, resulting in billions of dollars of new visitor spending. A Senate companion bill, co-sponsored by a majority of U.S. Senators, did not receive a vote. The Travel Promotion Act is expected to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress in the coming weeks. Let's hope the Dems can see sense. We need to encourage international visitors to come and see America.


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