The role of the travel and tourism industry in creating jobs was highlighted by U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue, who outlined areas where the industry and government can work together to spur economic growth. Donohue addressed tourism executives at the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow conference.
“This industry is central not only to the strength of our economy, but also to the vitality of America’s culture and society, and to our national security,” he said. Donohue covered five areas where government, business and the travel and tourism industry can work to achieve economic growth and job creation.
1. “Be smart about implementing the Travel Promotion Act,” Donahue said. This legislation created a private-public partnership—without any U.S. taxpayer funds—to communicate changes to domestic travel policies and to promote America as a travel destination abroad. Oxford Economics estimates that a well-executed promotion program would attract 1.6 million new international visitors annually. The Congressional Budget Office says it will create some 40,000 American jobs—and cut the ballooning U.S. deficit by $425 million.
2. Mitigate the “hassle factor.” Donahue said a visitor’s first experience after landing in the U.S. needs to be improved, adding that security and screening procedures at airports and other transportation hubs must be necessary, effective, efficient, and always delivered with respect and goodwill.
3. Dramatically improve infrastructure. “America must have a world-class transportation system,” Donahue said. “It must hum with efficiency and create a secure and comfortable environment that travelers deserve and expect. Our great challenge is to understand the inter-connectedness of our international transportation system, and work across national boundaries to keep the network modern, well integrated, and operational—particularly in a global environment where risk is ever-present.”
4. Keep America an attractive destination for business travelers and tourists by strengthening commercial, cultural, and natural environments. Donaue says the U.S leadership, laws, and markets must spell opportunity in bold letters for the entire world to see. “Anyone visiting America is, in a sense, coming home,” he said. “We must always make them feel that way.”
5. Remain constantly vigilant and be aggressive advocates for the travel industry. As rhetoric from Washington politicians blasts business travel as than wasteful, Donahue points out that domestic business travel is responsible for $240 billion in spending and 2.4 million American jobs. “These attacks hurt real people in real communities across the country,” he said. “They don’t help create jobs or put people back to work.”
The Chamber joined the U.S. Travel Association in supporting the Travel Promotion Act. Donohue commended its passage and noted the legislation could help facilitate an additional $4 billion in consumer spending and generate another 40,000 U.S. jobs if smartly implemented.
Noting the Chamber’s recently launched American Free Enterprise, Dream Big, campaign— an effort to create 20 million jobs in America over the next decade— Donohue stressed the importance of our free enterprise system and its role in attracting foreign visitors, immigrants, and others to our shores.