Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO was the first to speak at the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW Press Conference held at the 51st edition held on Tuesday, June 4, 2019,
At the Anaheim Convention Center in California. He began with these opening remarks:
Welcome to the 51st IPW.
I’m so excited to share with you that we had an impressive turnout this year: over 6,000 delegates from 70 countries, including 500 media. We are especially pleased to have a record delegation from China this year.
Based on updated data, I am able to report that IPW will generate $5.5 billion in direct travel spending in the United States over the next three years. That’s revised upward from the $4.7 billion we have reported over the past few years. The impact of the travel industry, and of this event in particular, cannot be ignored. The work we’re doing here—together—to connect U.S. destinations to international markets is so important.
When we met last year, I told you that the U.S. is losing international travel market share. Unfortunately, that is still the case. Just this past Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce put out figures showing that international travel to the U.S. grew 3.5% last year.
That might sound pretty good—but not when you consider that globally, long-haul travel grew by 7%. What that means is that the U.S. is still falling behind in the competition to attract international visitors. That’s the bad news. And it means we have work to do.
So, what are we doing about it?
I know a lot of people want to lay this at the feet of our president. But we’ve come a long way helping the administration appreciate travel as a crucial U.S. export and job creator. We certainly don’t think the president says often enough that he wants healthy numbers of visitors to come to the U.S. But there is an opening to talk to this administration about policies that help with visitation. And we have done just that.
I met with the president face to face last fall, alongside U.S. Travel’s most prominent corporate member CEOs. We talked about how important travel is to the American economy and workforce, and how travel helps lower our overall trade deficit. And I’m pleased to report that the president was eager to hear what we had to say and was receptive to the It opened a meaningful dialogue with the president and his team and showed the administration’s willingness to help with a number of travel priorities. And we continue our dialogue with the White House and the rest of the administration on a near-weekly basis.
America can be—and should be—the most secure and the most visited country in the world. And we have a plan to achieve that. To explain more about it, I’d like to introduce you to the person who plays a key role pushing it forward, U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, Tori Barnes.
Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy
In Washington, most debates are rooted in three main priorities: trade, security and commerce. We have a mantra that drives our public affairs program, because it’s a fact: Travel is trade. Travel is security. And travel is commerce. This is the message that U.S. Travel takes every day into the halls of Congress, and to the White House and the rest of the executive branch.
Even informed people don’t always think of travel as an export. But when an international visitor comes to the U.S. and stays in a hotel, rides a train, eats in a restaurant or purchases something in a store, it is considered an export—even though the transaction is made on U.S. soil. In 2018, international visitors to the U.S. spent—or rather, the U.S. exported—$256 billion. And while the trade deficit hit a record-high $622 billion last year, travel actually generated a trade surplus of $69 billion. Without the export performance of the travel industry, America’s overall trade deficit would have been 11% higher.
In fact, the U.S. enjoys that travel trade surplus with nine of its top ten trading partners. Travel also creates more jobs and better jobs than the majority of other U.S. industries, a fact borne out in research we released this past spring. In constantly stating these realities to our policymakers, we have an overarching goal: to elevate travel in what we call the macropolitical dialogue. Put more simply, that means political leaders should think about the impact on travel when creating any policy…much like they think of other industries, like manufacturing or financial services.
We have a powerful story to tell, and it is backed up by the data: When travel thrives, so does America.
Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO
Travel strengthens our economy and workforce. And it also plays a critical role in strengthening our national security. Some of the best programs we have to facilitate travel are also the ones that strengthen security the most. For example: America—and the world—are safer because of the bilateral Visa Waiver Program.
Security is something this administration cares about a lot. But it’s something we care about too, because I say it all the time: Without security, there can be no travel. And we also know that the president shares our desire to add more qualified countries to the Visa Waiver Program. Last year, President Trump said that the U.S. is strongly considering Poland’s addition to the VWP. Israel is another important ally that is under consideration. And there are many other excellent candidates to join this key security program as well.
A few months ago, the JOLT Act of 2019 was introduced in Congress to help bring these countries into the VWP fold. The bill would also rename the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership, which more precisely reflects its dual purpose as both a security and travel facilitation program. Similarly, both security and facilitation can be better achieved by adding more Customs Preclearance locations in airports around the world.
Thanks to Preclearance, passengers clear U.S. Customs before even setting foot in the U.S.— which frees up valuable security resources. There are currently 15 locations in six countries— and that number could grow very soon. Sweden and the Dominican Republic are among the countries that have recently signed agreements to add Preclearance sites. We are also supporting CBP’s efforts to add sites in countries such as the U.K., Japan and Colombia.
And we look forward to helping expand this program even further.
In the past year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been moving to make biometric entryexit screening a system-wide reality. I’m proud to say the U.S. leads the world in this cuttingedge technology. It helps security officials keep track of who is coming and going, and makes travel both more secure and more efficient. The use of biometrics to screen passengers is steadily spreading throughout the U.S. aviation system.
Facial comparison technology has proven highly accurate. Shortly after implementation at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, for instance, officials intercepted several violators attempting to enter the U.S. with a false travel document. And you may have seen the country’s first biometric entry-exit system at Orlando International Airport. U.S. Travel is championing this new technology, which boosts security and efficiency for travelers. And we will continue to work with CBP to implement biometric screening system-wide.
I’m sure many of you have heard the news that the administration is sending officers from CBP and TSA to support security at the U.S.-Mexico border. As soon as we heard the reports, U.S. Travel immediately activated around this issue. We’ve long said that security and economic priorities should go hand in hand, and we made it clear to the administration that resources should not be diverted away from airports or other points of entry.
I’m sure many of you have heard the news that the administration is sending officers from CBP and TSA to support security at the U.S.-Mexico border. As soon as we heard the reports … U.S. Travel immediately activated around this issue. We’ve long said that security and economic priorities should go hand in hand, and we made it clear to the administration that resources should not be diverted away from airports or other points of entry. We know all of excessively long entry and security lines. Since we have been here, I have heard from many of you that your time spent at U.S. Customs has been unacceptably long. I want you to know: I hear you. Information gathered from valuable and experienced travelers such as yourselves helps us identify the issues we need to raise with the U.S. government. I want to inform you that we are now in the process of seeking data on Customs wait times from our major airport members. And we have activated a dialogue on this issue with the appropriate government agencies. We will continue to make our concerns heard when there is evidence that our entry process is lagging.
We have similarly heard that wait times for visas have started to get longer again, especially in important markets such as China. But I want you to know that U.S. Travel has succeeded in spurring government action to reduce wait times before. And if these problems are recurring, we will activate our resources to do so again.
To speak on our members’ behalf, I’d like to introduce a good friend of mine whom most of you know. He was the host of IPW in 2017 in Washington, D.C., and he spoke to you all last year in Denver about the 50th anniversary of IPW and the growth of this important event. Please welcome U.S. Travel’s new national chair, the president and CEO of Destination DC, Elliott Ferguson.
Elliott L. Ferguson, II, Destination DC President and CEO
I’m thrilled to serve as the national chair of the U.S. Travel Association.
In Denver, I spoke about the history of IPW, and why it’s so important that we ensure another 50 years of bringing our global industry to the United States for this important event. We want to continue to grow—making sure IPW evolves as we work closely with Brand USA—and continues to reflect changes in the global marketplace. I’ll be assembling a task force to ensure that this program’s future remains bright. Welcoming visitors from around the world continues to be important.
As an economic development organization, that’s a big focus for us at Destination DC, and it’s also one of my main priorities with U.S. Travel. Travelers to the U.S. from all over the world can be discouraged if they encounter lengthy visa wait times. We’ve had several instances in DC where key speakers at meetings were denied entry or had visa delays, which caused them to skip the conference. I also recently got back from Germany and witnessed the excessively long customs lines. These kinds of experiences take a toll.
And even a small decline in visitation exacts a cost to the U.S. economy. We want people to come here, and we have been working with officials in Washington to cut down on wait times and to make the visa system more efficient and less burdensome, keeping it secure and efficient. When these international visitors do make it over here, we want to show them the best that America has to offer, and that includes our treasured national parks.
Our national parks—both the natural wonders and the urban sights—are some of America’s biggest draws for international travelers. Last year, the national parks welcomed 318 million visitors—and more than a third of them were from abroad. Whether these visitors are coming to my city to see the monuments, museums and memorials on the National Mall or experiencing the beauty of Joshua Tree here in California, we need to make sure these public lands are taken care of.
Because the truth is, many of these treasures are falling into disrepair. The National Park Service is facing almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance repairs. And if we don’t do something to address these needs, communities that rely on park visitation stand to lose millions of dollars for their local economies—and the parks themselves risk falling into further disrepair.
This is why we support two particular bills in Congress right now: Restore Our Parks Act and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act.
These bills would establish a dedicated source of funding for our national parks and preserve their viability for generations to come. We are hopeful they will continue to move through Congress and will be enacted into law. It’s my pleasure to be here today. Thank you, Roger, and the incredible U.S. Travel team, as well as the team at Anaheim.
Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO
Elliott is right—our country’s national parks are a huge draw for international visitors. But there are lots of great places in the world to visit. This is something that Elliott and I talk about often— many Americans assume international visitors already know about all of the great things that America has to offer and think everyone wants to visit here.
Unfortunately, the numbers tell a different story.
America’s share of the global travel market dropped from 13.7% in 2015 to just 11.7% in 2018. This is why we need Brand USA reauthorized this year. As you heard from Chris Thompson yesterday morning, Brand USA put out a new return-on-investment study a few weeks ago, once again showing how valuable this program is to promoting America to the world. The good news is, there is a lot of bipartisan support in Congress for Brand USA’s reauthorization.
Last month, a letter in support of Brand USA received nearly 50 signatures from senators on both sides of the political aisle, and a similar letter will soon be circulating in the House of Representatives. U.S. Travel, along with our partners in the Visit U.S. Coalition, is helping with this effort, which will further grow the strong support Brand USA already has in Washington. I’d like to congratulate Chris and his team on another great year. I can’t stress enough the importance of the work you do. And thank you for once again being the Premier Sponsor of IPW.
But of course, I must thank the people who made this year’s IPW an outstanding success: Jay Burress and all of the folks at Visit Anaheim, Caroline Beteta and her team at Visit California, together with so many local partners. What a phenomenal job these organizations have done. Thank you for all that you do.
I know many of you were here in 2007 the last time IPW was held in Anaheim—isn’t it amazing how much things have changed since then? This destination is growing, and the effects of IPW will be felt here for years to come. I’m so glad to be a part of it.
And last but not least, I’d like to thank you: the international travel buyers and media who traveled from 70 different countries to be here with us this week.
Travel is trade, travel is security, and travel is commerce, and each and every one of you plays such an important role in growing travel to the United States. We are so grateful for all that you do. Thank you for being here today, and we’ll see you all next year at IPW in Las Vegas.