The Obama Administration's call for a national travel and tourism strategy was one of the most significant developments for the travel industry in the past decade, said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association following a meeting of CEOs from the nation's largest travel companies with senior Administration officials in the White House.
Dow expressed support for 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 $1.9 trillion travel industry, which supports 14.4 million U.S. jobs.
"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," Dow said.
In January, President 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, U.S. Travel said. Those goals include an increase of nonimmigrant visa processing capacity by China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year and ensuring that 80 percent of nonimmigrant 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 nonimmigrant visas," said Dow.
VWP countries are the largest source of inbound travel to the United States, U.S. Travel says. 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, 274 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, U.S. Travel says. 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.
CEOs attending the White House meeting included:
• Jim Abrahamson, Chief Executive Officer, Interstate Hotels & Resorts
• Jim Atchison, President & Chief Executive Officer, Seaworld Parks & Entertainment
• Chris Cahill, Chief Operating Officer, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International
• Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International
• Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Travel Association
• Thomas M. Gartland, President, North America, Avis Budget Group, Inc.
• Sam Gilliland, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Sabre Holdings
• Bill Glenn, President, Global Commercial Services, American Express Company
• Barney Harford, Chief Executive Officer, Orbitz Worldwide
• Jeremy Jacobs, Jr., Principal, Delaware North Companies
• Hubert Joly, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Carlson
• Stephen Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International
• Dara Khosrowshahi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Expedia, Inc.
• Kirk Kinsell, President, The Americas, InterContinental Hotels Group
• Christopher Nassetta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hilton Worldwide
• Joseph V. Popolo, Chief Executive Officer, Freeman
• Rossi Ralenkotter, President & Chief Executive Officer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
• John Sprouls, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer, Universal Parks and Resorts
• Greg Stubblefield, President, National & Alamo Rent-a-Car, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Enterprise Holdings
• Frits van Paasschen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.