International Visitors Are Crucial to President Trump’s Priorities
February 07, 2018 By Roger Dow, Former President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association
The hospitality industry has played a key role in launching the Visit U.S. coalition, which aims to work with the administration to reverse a recent decline in international visitation to America.
This piece previously appeared on GlobalHotelNetwork.com.
An America-first economic agenda—including closing the U.S. trade gap and promoting domestic jobs—lies at the core of President Trump’s policy priorities, and has since the early days of his campaign.
While the performance of our economy has been very strong during his administration, President Trump can accelerate his core economic goals, and add more American jobs, with a renewed focus on increasing international travel to the U.S.
International inbound travel is America’s No. 2 export overall, directly supports more than a million American jobs and brings in $245 billion a year to our economy. But the U.S. share of the growing global long-haul travel market has been eroding since before the start of the Trump administration—from 13.6 percent in 2015 to 11.9 percent last year.
That slide has deprived our economy of an estimated $32 billion in additional spending and 100,000 additional jobs.
To that end, hospitality and meetings industry leaders, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, The Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the American Resort Development Association, Real Estate Roundtable, the Society of Independent Show Organizers and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, have led the way with U.S. Travel in launching the Visit U.S. Coalition. Our goal is to partner with the Trump administration to re-grow America’s market share of the rapidly expanding international travel market. Doing so will help the president realize his economic goals.
International travelers, as many in the hospitality industry are well aware, are among our country’s most valuable consumers. International visitors spend an average of $4,400 per trip to the U.S., which is significantly more than Americans spend when they travel abroad. That adds up to billions of dollars spent annually at American hotels, restaurants and retail stores in destinations across the country, contributing to an $84 billion travel trade surplus in 2016.
It’s not just travel-related businesses that benefit, either. International traveler spending impacts a wide span of sectors, and fuels both large and small businesses. That’s why the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are founding members of the Visit U.S. Coalition.
And when we say every level of the economy, we mean it—travel jobs are the ticket to promising career opportunities for millions of Americans. Nearly 40 percent of workers whose first job was in the travel industry reached an annual career salary of more than $100,000. The best part: these jobs cannot be outsourced. Just like a visit to the Grand Canyon, Broadway or the Golden Gate Bridge cannot be precisely replicated anywhere in the world, nor can you outsource the job of a hotel front desk clerk or attraction operator.
While America’s share of the international market has shrunk, the rest of the world has raced ahead in attracting growing numbers of visitors. France’s share of the global travel market is up, and they’re comfortably holding their spot as the top destination for international travelers. Germany, the UK, and China have seen their share increase as well. Furthermore, Spain just surpassed the U.S. as the world’s second-most-visited country in the world.
The worst part: unlike other industries, lost business in international travel is truly lost business. When an international traveler chooses not to visit the U.S., their money stays out of our economy and goes elsewhere, plain and simple. America isn’t winning when we’re falling behind global heavyweights.
The good news? The problem is fixable, through balanced messaging and sound policymaking—and we’ve seen it happen before. The U.S. experienced a serious drop in long-haul visitation in the ten years after 9/11 (a period known in the travel industry as “the lost decade”), but was able to rebound with a concerted, cooperative effort from industry and policymakers. We can do so again.
Our guiding principle is simple: we can welcome and encourage legitimate international travelers while embracing top-notch security measures to keep our country safe. The U.S. can and should be the most secure and the most visited country in the world—to be anything else would derail President Trump’s goal of three percent growth in GDP.
Therefore, the Visit U.S. coalition aims to partner with the Trump administration to reverse the decline in international visitation, and tell the world that global travelers are welcome here. America is closed to terror, but open for business—and the hospitality industry wants to continually remind international visitors of all that makes America great.
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