U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow
While global travel volume increased 7.9 percent from 2015 to 2017, according to research prepared for Visit U.S. by the U.S. Travel Association, the U.S. slice of that growing pie fell from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent during that time period - the first drop after more than a decade of consistent growth. That decline is a hindrance to the administration's economic goals of 3 percent GDP growth, noted Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO, in a teleconference on Tuesday.
While it might not be apparent to many, the country is experiencing steep losses in jobs and economic activity as a result of the decline in inbound international travel, said Dow. If the U.S. had maintained its 2015 market share, the economy would have gained:
- 7.4 million additional international visitors
- $32.2 billion in additional spending
- 100,000 additional jobs
To reverse that decline, trade groups representing thousands of businesses and millions of jobs announced the official launch of the Visit U.S. coalition on Tuesday, Jan. 16. The coalition aims to partner with the Trump Administration to achieve the shared goal of growing the nation's economy - a vital component of which must be reversing the decline in international inbound travel that began in 2015.
"America is the best country in the world to visit, but we're losing the competition for international travelers and the dollars they spend when they come here," said Dow, whose organization is a founding member of Visit U.S. "The Visit U.S. Coalition is founded on the principle that we can have strong security but at the same time welcome robust numbers of international business and leisure travelers. We can do both." He added, "Visit U.S. is committed to helping make the U.S. both the most secure and most visited country in the world."
The Trump Administration cannot be blamed for the decline, Dow noted. "The fact is, this administration inherited the downward trajectory." Factors such as a very strong U.S. dollar, weak economies in some other nations and a proliferation of low-cost airlines in Europe are contributing factors, he said, coupled with "the tap tap tap and the rhetoric of the media."
Dow added, "Travel transcends politics. But the fact is, America isn't 'winning.' We're falling behind our global competitors. The administration's operating principle must be that 'America is closed to terror, but open for business.'"
The U.S. was one of only two destinations (including Turkey) in the top dozen global markets to see a decline in long-haul inbound travel since 2015. The drop stands in stark contrast to other large economies around the world. Notable among the countries whose tourism shares have recently grown are France, Germany, Spain and China.
"Travel and tourism is our country's second largest export and we can't afford to lose ground to other countries," said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). "Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays, fewer meals eaten in our restaurants, fewer goods purchased in our retail stores and fewer visits to our national attractions."
The loss has been particularly evident in gateway cities, Lugar noted. "In 2017, New York saw a 21 percent decline in international arrivals; Atlanta and Dallas also saw double digit declines."
"International visitors are of vital importance to the gaming industry and the United States economy," added Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. "We are excited to partner with our peers in the business community and eager to work with the administration and Congress to ensure that the United States is the world's most secure, attractive and welcoming destination."
Freeman recalled the "lost decade" that followed Sept. 11, 2001, marked by steady losses in tourism dollars. "We're now facing significant declines again, and we are working collectively to stem the pattern of international visitor decline."
"Promoting greater tourism does not require that we compromise our security," stressed Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Our number-one priority is greater economic growth," he said on the press call. "Greater travel and tourism is a key part of building economic growth now and into our future."
Founding members of the Visit U.S. Coalition include:
- American Gaming Association
- American Hotel & Lodging Association
- American Society of Association Executives
- Asian American Hotel Owners Association
- International Association of Exhibitions and Events
- National Restaurant Association
- National Retail Federation
- Society of Independent Show Organizers
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- U.S. Travel Association
For more information, visit https://www.visituscoalition.com/