Orlando, Florida – The past year has been tough for the US travel industry posting a decline of 5.3% in 2009, alongside total world international travel dip of 4.3%.
Travel from US top markets, Canada and Mexico, was impacted by the global economy weakening by 4-5% and other foreign markets to the US slowing down by 6%. Though numbers are not in just yet, the massive BP oil spill causes major tourism concerns in the Gulf of Mexico following Iceland?s volcanic eruption that cost the travel industry some $813 M in losses, just in the last month.
Despite a world economy continuously confronted by harsh recession in the successive periods since ?08 to date, total international travels to the US in the last quarter of 2009 grew by 2.4%, and by 9.5% in January 2010. Travel from mainland China went up 6.3%, from Australia, up nearly 5% and from Brazil, grew by 16% over 2008 during the peak of the global meltdown. The US travel industry expects continued growth from robust markets such as Brazil, China and India as it had over the last years pre-meltdown.
According to Roger Dow, President and CEO, US Travel Association, US travel currently looks forward to positive growth throughout the year.
“We are thrilled that in March, President (Obama) signed it into law legislation to create the first ever promotion and communications program for the United States,” he said. “The Travel Promotion Act will establish the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private entity designed to better inform foreign travellers about important entry policies, breaking news developments that affect travel and promote the vast opportunities to visit a nation that’s blessed with so many natural and diverse assets,” Dow added.
The Travel Promotion Act was passed by the House of Representatives in 2008, but was not voted on the Senate. In 2009, it was submitted to the House. This law has been drafted to put the US on equal footing with destinations around the world it competes with for international travellers. Initially, it was projected to allow the US to raise $100 million, but will not cost anybody even a penny, in a bid to attract tourists to come to the country and understand who we are as a people. There are financial and diplomatic reasons following the approval of this act. “People who come to our country needs to see us as a people, as a nation, see America and what it stands for,” said Dow at the inception of the law.
The Act carries a promise to attract millions of additional overseas guests at no cost to the US taxpayer. Oxford Economics announced it will generate 1.6 M more tourists to the US, creating 40,000 new US jobs, and generating an additional $4B in travel spends annually.
TPA’s program will require $10 surcharge every other year from visitors on the visa waiver program countries (now including 36 countries from 27 last year — with the addition of Greece, South Korea, Czech Republic and 5 other Eastern European nations). The $10 fee multiplied by millions of people multiplied by the private sector match will total $100 M in the end, expected when it was originally created.
“We are very excited for the Corporation (for Travel Promotion) to be established over the next year, so we can welcome more international visitors to the country,” said Dow. US Travel Association joins hands with people from the state department and homeland security, advising people on how much easier they can get into the country. The key players in the bill including President Obama and Sec. of State Clinton sponsored the bill during the legislative session so that the industry can have the funding vehicle to create money for the industry, as well as increase the number of countries on the visa waiver program.
Dow added that the TPA is only part of the solution to enhancing the experience of foreign visitors coming to the US. “US Travel is working hard with our partners in government to continue to enhance the visa and entry processes,” he said at the POWWOW International Travel Show held recently in Orlando.