The highly publicized and politicized decision by the International Olympic Committee's elimination of Chicago as a possible host of the Summer 2016 Games continues to spark controversy. Eliminated during the first round of balloting – despite the personal appeal of President Obama - the choice of Brazil and Rio de Janiero over Chicago offers lessons. Among them is the need to change impressions of what the experience of travel to the U.S. is like for international visitors, says the head of the U.S. Travel Association.
Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's President and CEO, applauded President Obama's personal appeal on behalf of Chicago and for sending a welcoming message to international travelers around the world. But, Dow added, "It's clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination."
"When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a 'pretty harrowing experience,' we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system," Dow said. "At the same time, the Travel Promotion Act (strongly supported by U.S. Travel) is an important step in making sure international travelers know we want them to visit our country."
The Travel Promotion Act, which recently was passed in the U.S. Senate and is awaiting action in the House of Representatives, would create the first-ever U.S. promotion and communications program aimed at international travelers. “Virtually all other industrialized nations spend at least tens of millions of dollars annually on advertising and promotion to attract foreign visitors. Studies show that such a campaign could attract millions of additional overseas visitors per year, resulting in billions of dollars in new visitor spending,” U.S. Travel said.
"Chicago has everything to offer and would have been an ideal venue for the Olympics," Dow said. "Officials from the city and the state of Illinois did a fantastic job of showcasing everything Chicago has to offer, and it's disappointing to have this $7 billion loss to its economy at a time it is sorely needed."
The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the $770 billion travel industry.