Top Industry Leaders to Debate U.S. Visa Issue at WTTC Summit


Wyndham's Stephen P Holmes is one of the industry leaders who will participate in a panel on major tourism issues at next week's Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas.

Hot on the heels of the new report, “Ready for Takeoff,” which was released by the U.S. Travel Association this past week, urging for a series of visa policy recommendations, industry leaders at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas next week will examine some of the key issues surrounding visas, one of the most controversial items in today’s travel industry. Executives of Starwood, Marriott, Diamond, Wyndham and Carlson are slated to participate.

The U.S .Travel Association believes that stringent visa policies put in place after 9/11 have resulted in a ‘lost decade’ of tourism to the U.S., as the country’s market share of long-haul travel has fallen from 18 percent in 1999 to 12 percent to 2009, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) noted.

The opening session for the 11th Global Travel & Tourism Summit on Wednesday, May 18, will take an in-depth look at the U.S. and how new approaches to tourism development and marketing are challenging existing visa, security and taxation policies.

A dedicated panel moderated by Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president, global communications and public affairs for Marriott International will discuss the major issues. The session will kick off with a keynote speech by Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, which will be followed by a panel session made up of the following industry leaders:

Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc
Arne Sorensen, President and COO, Marriott International
Stephen Cloobeck, Chairman and CEO, Diamond Resorts Holdings, LLC
Stephen P Holmes, Chairman and CEO, Wyndham Worldwide & Vice Chairman, WTTC
Roger Dow, President and CEO, US Travel Association
Hubert Joly, President, CEO and Director, Carlson Hotels

Some of the key questions that will inform the debate include: How can a ‘new mindset’ approach help address the current challenges facing the U.S. in terms of the impact of its visa policies on an ever-shrinking market share? How can the U.S. keep up with its rivals in the race to entice overseas visitors while keeping with the government’s entry hurdles? How can governments balance the needs of state security with the rights of individuals to travel and what is an ‘intelligent visa policy’? How can visa policies be carried out effectively without harming the competitiveness of the country as a destination?

The controversial subject of visa battles is just one of the pressing topics that will be discussed during the Summit. Another is the impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan and measures that need to be taken throughout the industry to ensure a speedy recovery. This will be discussed by industry leaders during the closing session of the summit on Thursday, May 19.

The WTTC noted that, following the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, there were sharp falls in international tourist arrivals, with potential visitors from all countries reluctant to visit, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). In addition to this drop in visitors to Japan, the JNTO reported that resident departures from Japan fell by 18 percent in March over 2010, representing a decline of 280,000 trips from 1.56 million to 1.28 million.

A high-level delegation of senior Japanese business leaders will come together in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 19, to describe firsthand what the events of March 11 have meant for the country, its people and the travel and tourism industry as a whole.

The concluding summit session in Las Vegas will address the twin themes of rebuilding infrastructure and confidence—what challenges lie ahead in reconstruction and how can the country reassure the world consumers that Japan is fully open for business.

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