While 2018 presented challenges and opportunities alike, we are fortunate to be able to look back on many successes on several fronts. We’d like to thank all of our members, travel industry allies, champions in Congress and in the federal government, and everyone else who supported U.S. Travel in our mission to increase travel to and within the U.S.

Here’s a look back at 2018. 

White House meeting
U.S. Travel, joined by CEOs of 13 member companies, met at the White House with President Trump and other senior administration officials on September 4. The meeting convened with the purpose of discussing travel’s essential contributions to the U.S. economy and job creation, and the importance of international inbound travel to trade deficit reduction.

Open Skies
The U.S. reached deals with Qatar in January and the United Arab Emirates in May that affirmed America’s Open Skies aviation agreements with those two countries. U.S. Travel had been actively engaged on this issue since 2015, and the preservation of this agreement was a significant win for the travel industry and travel industry workers.

FAA bill
October’s FAA reauthorization bill included several positive provisions—many of which mirror recommendations made by U.S. Travel in its 2016 Transforming Security at Airports report—that reform the TSA:

  • Require that Precheck lanes be used only by members of a relevant trusted traveler program.
  • Add a third screening protocol pilot for low-risk passengers who are not Precheck members.
  • Expand opportunities for travelers to enroll in the Precheck program online or through a mobile device.
  • Mandate that the TSA publish wait times at all TSA-run airport security checkpoints.
  • Set a target enrollment goal of seven million passengers by October 2019; 10 million by October 2020; and 15 million in October 2021 for the Precheck program.
  • Direct the president to appoint a TSA administrator for a five-year term. 

Brand USA
The need to reauthorize Brand USA inspired much-welcomed bipartisan cooperation this year. A letter signed by approximately 600 travel industry organizations was sent to congressional leadership in December in support of Brand USA, and a similar letter signed by 36 Republicans and 34 Democrats was sent to House leadership in October. U.S. Travel members have penned numerous op-eds in support of the program, and news releases have aired on radio stations in several strategic media markets such as New Orleans, Austin and Louisville urging congressional action on Brand USA.

Thanks to our members and travel industry allies, our champions in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and our partners in the Visit U.S. Coalition, we are well-positioned to ensure the long-term future of Brand USA. While the exact legislative vehicle in which Brand USA reauthorization may be included is being identified, U.S. Travel has prepared for every scenario that may play out from the budget battle in Congress.  

Visit U.S. Coalition
To address the decline in international visitation to America, U.S. Travel united more than a dozen business organizations to form the Visit U.S. Coalition. The coalition established a relationship with Stephen Moore, a trusted adviser to President Trump, who analyzed how increased international visitation to the U.S. can help lower America’s overall trade deficit.

Travel and Tourism Advisory Board recommendations
The Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in December provided the Secretary of Commerce with its recommendations for a new 10-year international visitation and spending goal for the U.S. Many of the recommendations mirror U.S. Travel’s priorities: the board urged the adoption of a national visitation goal, voiced its support for Brand USA’s renewal, recommended a Visa Waiver Program name change, and called for expansion of the Customs Preclearance program.

Global Meetings Industry Day
It was a record-breaking year for Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), the annual celebration of the value of business meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows, exhibitions and other face-to-face gatherings. More than 200 events across six continents—including the GMID-blue lighting of the Empire State Building—were held, shattering 2017’s record of 120 events.

Additionally, the #GMID2018 hashtag received 38 million impressions in the span of 24 hours, while the previous year’s #GMID2017 hashtag received 40 million impressions over the course of two weeks. According to a study from Oxford Economics, meetings and events in the United States supported 5.9 million jobs and $845 billion in economic impact in 2016.

IPW
IPW, the “Super Bowl” of international travel business, was held in Denver in May, marking this landmark event’s 50th anniversary. It was a huge success: more than 6,000 attendees from over 70 countries attended 100,000 prescheduled business meetings that will result in billions of dollars in direct bookings to U.S. destinations over the next three years.  

National Travel and Tourism Week
National Travel and Tourism Week’s (NTTW) “Travel Then and Now” theme inspired creativity from destinations and organizations around the country and provided the industry a chance to reflect on its accomplishments over the years.

The #nttw18 hashtag appeared in nearly 10,000 tweets and reached more than 89 million users’ timelines. Destinations and organizations from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands participated in NTTW 2018.

Biometric expansion
In June, Orlando International Airport became the first airport in the nation to fully implement a biometric entry and exit system. In November, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s Terminal F became the first fully biometric terminal in the country.

Biometric technology helps to reduce risk by verifying that an individual presenting travel and identification documents is exactly who they are claiming to be, and also helps to minimize the burden on existing processes and systems, allowing travelers to clear checkpoints with greater ease and speed. U.S. Travel has been working on making biometric entry-exit screening a system-wide reality for several years, and commends U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts to increase security at America’s arrival and departure points.

ESTO
More than 850 destination marketing professionals met in Phoenix in August for ESTO (the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations). The annual event is a national forum in which destination marketing professionals at the state, regional and local level obtain critical tools and tips that will allow them to better market and grow their destinations.

The presentation of several prestigious industry awards takes place at ESTO, including the Destiny Awards, Mercury Awards, and the State Tourism Director of the Year Award, which was presented this year to Sara Otte Coleman of the North Dakota Tourism Division.

National parks
In 2017, 331 million national parks visitors spent $18 billion in gateway communities, which in turn supported 306,000 jobs and generated nearly $36 billion in national economic output. However, the nearly $12 billion maintenance repairs backlog in the national parks threatens their future viability.

Significant strides were made in the past year toward addressing this issue. In September, just days after 126 local and national organizations sent a joint letter of support to the House Committee on Natural Resources, the committee passed the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act. The Senate version of that bill—the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172)—currently has 35 cosigners. More recently, 16 senators and 28 House members sent a letter to congressional leadership expressing support for the inclusion of a public lands legislative package in any end-of-year legislative vehicle.

Sports Travel Forum
U.S. Travel’s inaugural Sports Travel Forum was held in November at Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park. The event brought together more than 100 travel and professional sports leaders to help them better understand the intersection between their industries’ business interests and forge opportunities for partnership and growth.

Some key items on the forum agenda included:

  • A discussion by former NFL chief marketing officer Dawn Hudson on the untapped opportunity in leveraging travel for professional sports.
  • A session with the San Francisco Giants Enterprises’ Stephen Revetria, Madison Square Garden Company’s Rob Lyons and Capital One Arena’s Michele Powell on generating year-round revenue.
  • A session on eSports led by Lee Igel of New York University’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport.

Destination Capitol Hill
Nearly 300 travel industry professionals convened in Washington in March for Destination Capitol Hill, the industry’s premier advocacy event. More than 315 meetings with lawmakers took place, ensuring that the industry’s collective voice was heard on a number of priority issues.

National Plan for Vacation Day
In 2017, Americans left 705 million unused vacation days on the table. The second annual National Plan for Vacation Day encouraged Americans to plan out their vacation days, as planning makes it more likely that all vacation days will be used. The event, with more than 600 activations across all 50 states, brought significant attention to America’s vacation deprivation issue.

Travel drives economies—from the smallest towns to the biggest cities—and supports more than 15.6 million jobs in every congressional district in America. These workers and the value travel creates for the economy is the reason U.S. Travel exists, and we are proud of our work together this year to strengthen and grow this industry.

Thank you for helping to make this a successful year for our industry, and we look forward to advancing our efforts in 2019.