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by Michael J. Shapiro | March 23, 2012
Rossi Ralenkotter, the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, will be sworn in Friday as the new national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. “Everything that we put together will be designed to increase travel, both domestically and internationally,” said Ralenkotter, who spoke with M&C this week about his platform and vision for the coming year. “It’s also about job creation. One thing we have recognized during this recession is the value of the travel industry to the economy of America, and that it does definitely create jobs.”

Ralenkotter’s platform consists of three components:
 
1. Assist in developing a long-term strategy for improving the travel infrastructure of the United States. “We need to have an integrated travel system — highway, rail, airports — all designed to facilitate movement around the country,” Ralenkotter explained. The association will advocate redesigning the country’s infrastructure using the most efficient technology available, and work with the government to develop a strategy to do so.
2. Make it easier for international travelers to come to the U.S., both for leisure and business. “We’ve been working consistently for a number of years on visa waiver programs and visa reform,” said Ralenkotter, “and we’ll continue with those efforts. We are in a totally global competitive set; we’re competing with all destinations, throughout the world, for travel business.”
3. Continue to stress the importance of the meetings and conventions industry for the U.S. “It supports more than six million jobs in our country,” noted Ralenkotter, “it contributes more than $458 billion to the national GDP, and it exists in every community and every state. We need to encourage the commerce side of meetings and trade shows, as well as the importance of the educational and governmental value of meetings.”
 
The recent executive order regarding visa reform and the attempt to ease international travel, added Ralenkotter, has gotten the year off to a good start. “That commitment from the White House and the Department of Commerce definitely sends the right message to our industry, as well as the traveling public.” On Monday, the association will issue a white paper regarding the meetings industry and its importance to the nation’s economy. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement since the criticism three years ago of the meetings and incentives business,” Ralenkotter noted, “but we have to be vigilant and make sure we continue to deliver that message and to stress the importance of this segment.”