CEOs from the nation’s largest travel companies met with senior Obama administration officials in the White House last week to express support for U.S. President Obama’s national travel and tourism strategy and urged policies and initiatives that would further economic growth and job creation in the nation’s US$1.9 trillion travel industry, which supports 14.4 million U.S. jobs.
“President Obama’s call for a national travel and tourism strategy was one of the most significant developments for our industry in the past decade,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “The travel industry has the ability—and stands ready—to quickly hire many of the unemployed workers in our country, but to do that we must have policies in place that increase travel to and within the United States. This Administration and most in Congress understand that, and we look forward to bipartisan support for legislation that supports America’s travel industry.”
In January, Obama issued an executive order that called for the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the establishment of visa and international visitor processing goals. Those goals include an increase of non-immigrant visa processing capacity by China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year and ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
“We strongly urge the Administration to work with the House and Senate leadership to schedule a vote on the bipartisan JOLT Act, which expands the Visa Waiver Program and codifies a two-week standard for processing non-immigrant visas,” Dow said.
VWP countries are the largest source of inbound travel to the U.S. In 2011, more than 18 million visitors to the U.S.—nearly two-thirds of all overseas visitors—arrived through the VWP. While here, they spent $69 billion, supported 525,000 American jobs and generated $13 billion in payroll and $11 billion in government tax revenues. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes—such as China, Brazil and India—is projected to grow by 135 percent, 274 percent and 50 percent respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010.
The CEOs at the White House meeting represent billion-dollar corporations in the travel industry. They were in Washington for the U.S. Travel Association’s CEO Roundtable, a bi-annual meeting to discuss industry issues and national policy initiatives.