On Tuesday, Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade, and his message was clear: Expanding visa waiver programs, improving the U.S. entry process and investing in business travel could help the U.S. realize “enormous” growth.
The non-profit U.S. Travel Association represents all sectors of America’s $2 trillion travel community, and Dow said the industry had played a crucial role in the United States’ economic recovery.
"In 2012, direct travel spending in the United States totaled $855 billion, which generated a total of $2.0 trillion in economic output and more than $129 billion in tax revenue,” he said. “Travel also directly employed 7.7 million Americans and was among the top 10 employers in 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.”
Each “long-haul” overseas visitor stayed an average of 18 nights and spent nearly $4,500 per visitor per trip, he added, and every 33 overseas travelers who decided to visit created an additional American job.
In his testimony, Dow also highlighted the results of a report by Oxford Economics titled "The Role of Business Travel in the U.S. Economic Recovery." It found that every dollar invested in business travel generated $9.50 in increased revenue and $2.90 in new profits. Moreover, data released Tuesday from 61 industries spanning from 2007 to 2011 found that companies that invested most in business travel during the recession grew faster than those that cut back on travel.
Dow applauded Brand USA, meanwhile, for its work in luring leisure travelers to America’s shores. He also acknowledged the Department of State for easing inefficiencies in the visa process and heralded the introduction of the JOLT Act in the House and the inclusion of its provisions in the Senate immigration bill. But he said the U.S. had several “self-imposed” obstacles to tackle before the U.S. to can back its dwindling share of the global market, which dropped from 17 percent in 2000 to less than 13 percent last year.
“Had we just kept pace with the global long-haul travel market over the last dozen years, the U.S. would have seen 98 million more overseas arrivals, bringing an additional $722 billion in spending, which creates $49 billion in additional tax revenues -- and most important, 42,500 more American jobs.
“Today, travel is our nation's No. 1 service export and is growing fast,” he added. “Just last week, in an otherwise disappointing quarterly trade deficit update, the Commerce Department reported that travel exports rose 5.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012, a rate three times faster than the rest of American exports.”
Yet, improving the entry experience at our borders, he said, was a huge challenge. Citing a U.S. Travel-commissioned survey of overseas travelers from earlier this year, he noted that 43 percent of those who visited the U.S. said they would tell others to avoid the trip because of the entry process. One in seven said they missed connections because of delays, and 44 percent of business travelers said they would not visit the U.S. in the next five years because of the inefficiencies.