U.S. Puts Focus on Tourism

Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

Attending the Global Travel & Tourism Summit (GTTS) last month in Las Vegas was a huge eye-opener for me. The event, hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council, showed how important tourism is to the rest of the world. Many countries realize the impact that it has on their economies and place the person who oversees tourism right at the table with other top government executives. Case in point: Mexico sent President Felipe Calderón, who has done his best to address the crime issues in his country. The country also sent its secretary of tourism, Gloria Guevara. That indicates the importance Mexico places on this role.

Another high point was Japan’s reaction to hosting the GTTS next year. Tokyo has rarely needed visitors as it does now and Atsutoshi Nishida, chairman of Toshiba, who is also the chairman of the Tokyo 2012 Host Committee for the GTTS, made it clear that hosting the event is a true point of pride for the country in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami.

“We want you to see with your own eyes how Japan has recovered,” Nishida told delegates in the GTTS’s closing ceremony. “You will be coming in mid-April, a wonderful time of year when we are enjoying spring to the fullest and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. It’s the time of year when the heart dances its most.”

For its part, the U.S. doesn’t have a secretary of tourism, but it did send some top delegates to speak at the GTTS, including Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood; Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama; and Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, who spoke quite candidly about the importance of a good travel experience within the United States and of the need for U.S. citizens to travel outside of the country.

Also on hand were Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and Jim Evans, the newly named CEO of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will lead the first marketing campaign for the U.S. in international markets.

The prohibitive visa polices of the U.S. were a constantly recurring theme at the GTTS; in some cases it can take months for travelers from Brazil, China and India to get the proper documentation to take a vacation here in the U.S., and the process can be expensive as well as tedious. Every one of the U.S. VIPs at the GTTS stressed the need for security, but they also recognized the importance of opening up more to these countries, who have emerging middle classes with money and a desire to come here.

I can hardly wait for these floodgates to open. Let’s hope the U.S. figures out these complex visa issues as quickly as possible. That these top players were at the GTTS and were so accessible (they even took questions from the audience) was a good sign that this will indeed be accomplished.

Also exciting to hear about was the high-speed rail system that’s in the works for the U.S. It will take about 25 years for us to catch up with countries like Spain, where most of the country is now connected by high-speed rail, but at least we know we’re on the right track.

For more news and photos from the meetings, turn to page 12.


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