Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman and chief executive officer of Loews Hotels, delivered opening remarks this morning at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. He spoke to the packed audience of 1,800 about what he believes to be the next great challenge facing the travel industry -- the need to modernize America's aging transport infrastructure. He implored tourism and hospitality industry leaders to unite to find innovative approaches to solving this problem.
Tisch framed the issue, explaining: "Everyone here understands that the ability to travel has never been easier. As economies around the world mature and prosper, millions of additional people now have the means to travel - either for business or leisure... At this moment of incredible opportunity, the process of traveling is becoming more stressful, less convenient, and more nerve-racking...When you take a step back and look at the big picture, you quickly realize the entire U.S. hospitality and travel industry faces a serious problem: Our aging infrastructure simply cannot handle today's demand for travel."
Acknowledging the great cost attached to investing in infrastructure, Tisch emphasized that the cost of inaction would be even higher. He claimed that unless America commits itself to making the necessary investments to improve our airports, railways, bridges and highways, we risk losing pace with key competitors around the world. In addition, the U.S. will miss out on the countless benefits that increased tourism could bring in the form of jobs, spending and economic growth.
Tisch offered specifics about the steps to take to head in the right direction, emphasizing the industry's need to embrace the FAA's NextGen airspace system - a transformation from today's ground-based air traffic management to a satellite-based system utilizing leading-edge GPS and digital communications technology. Further, he applauded innovative ideas such as America Fast Forward - a proposal to leverage local revenues and federal loans to fast-track construction on vital infrastructure.
In closing, Tisch remarked, "The need to improve and modernize America's infrastructure is going to be one of the travel industry's defining challenges over the next decade or longer. I know our industry can come together to achieve big things. We did it with the Travel Promotion Act. It took time, dedication, commitment, money. Most of all, it took a new way of thinking - with a recognition that all stakeholders have a shared destiny. And look at the results. We succeeded because we understood the power of speaking with one voice. We recognized that we could advance our entire industry by working together. We were willing to set aside our individual concerns and work for the common good. If we take that same approach to today's challenges, I am confident our future will never look brighter."