Visit U.S. Coalition Tackles Dip in International Travel to U.S.

By Sara Delgado, March 16, 2018

In January, trade groups representing thousands of businesses from across the country announced the formation of the Visit U.S. Coalition. The first item on the agenda? Addressing the roughly two percent drop in U.S. share of global travel.

While global travel volume increased 7.9 percent from 2015 to 2017, the U.S. percentage share fell from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent. Turkey was the only other country to see a dip during this timeframe.

This was the first decrease after more than a decade of steady growth. Had this loss not occurred, the American economy would have gained 7.4 million additional international visitors, $32.2 billion in additional spending and 100,000 new jobs.

U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Roger Dow stresses the importance of being first in international travel while maintaining strong security standards.

“The Visit U.S. Coalition is founded on the principle that we can have strong security but at the same time welcome robust numbers of international business and leisure travelers. We can do both,” says Dow.

Members of the Visit U.S. Coalition are among a who’s who of key players in hospitality and events. To name a few: American Gaming Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, National Restaurant Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Travel Association. The aim is to partner with the Trump administration to promote policies that reiterate the message that America is open for business.

“President Trump has made it a priority to shrink our trade deficit and growing inbound travel can play a big part of achieving that success,” says Visit U.S. Coalition spokesman Amos Snead.

In February, the coalition released a policy agenda outlining their position. These objectives range from short-term benchmarks to long-term visitor goals recommended by the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and the U.S. secretary of commerce. The coalition urges the administration and Congress to actively welcome international visitors to America while also improving U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers at major ports of entry.

It’s still too soon to tell if this affects the meetings industry.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition and the Events Industry Council commissioned Oxford Economics to conduct a nationwide study of face-to-face meetings’ contribution to the economy in 2016. To gather data, Oxford Economics consulted meeting planners, exhibitors and venues representing almost 9,000 domestic business travelers, 11,000 hotels and almost 50,000 domestic international air travelers.

The results indicate approximately 1.9 million meetings took place, producing a total of $184.2 billion of GDP. On average, the direct spending of 43 participants supported one U.S. job. With respect to domestic participants and travelers, Oxford Economics’ data overwhelmingly promotes the meetings industry as a key sector to a growing U.S. economy.

As for international visitor participation, this year the Commerce Department reported that following a 2.8 percent decline in 2016, spending by international visitors in the U.S. fell 3.1 percent in 2017 to $149 billion—the lowest level since 2013. This data falls in line with Visit U.S. Coalition’s premonitions.

In the meetings sector alone, international participants account for 11.5% of the sector total of meetings direct spendings.

Dow remarks, “The message that we’re welcoming isn’t coming across.”

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