New Travel Coalition to World: Give U.S. a Visit

The Visit U.S. Coalition, launched Tuesday, aims to reverse a downward trend in the United States' share of world travel. Founding members include ASAE, the U.S. Travel Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several others.

Facing a worrisome dip in international travelers to the United States and with a tense political climate waiting to greet those who come, a new coalition of business groups emerged this week to press for policies that support and encourage international travel to the U.S.

The Visit U.S. Coalition, with 10 major travel and business organizations as founding members, was announced Tuesday. In a news release, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow, whose group is a founding member, said the coalition will advocate for policies that meet security needs while still encouraging people to visit the U.S.

We can have strong security but at the same time welcome robust numbers of international business and leisure travelers. We can do both.

“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,” Dow said. “We can do both.”

According to U.S. Travel statistics, the U.S. share of global long-haul travel declined from 13.6 percent in 2015 to 12.9 percent in 2016. It fell further, to 11.9 percent, in 2017, marking its lowest point since 2010. Over the same period, travel to other countries—especially in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and China—was on the upswing.

Those trends have significant economic impact, according to the coalition. Recent data from U.S. Travel shows a 3.3 percent decline in spending by international travelers to the U.S. over a yearlong period ending in November 2017. U.S. Travel says the decline represents a loss of $4.6 billion in U.S.-based spending and 40,000 jobs.

“Travel and tourism is our country’s second largest export, and we can’t afford to lose ground to other countries,” said American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) President and CEO Katherine Lugar in the news release. “Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays, fewer meals eaten in our restaurants, fewer goods purchased in our retail stores, and fewer visits to our national attractions. It also means fewer American jobs and a loss to our economy. We are committed to working together with the administration to balance a welcome message with strong security to ensure we don’t fall behind to other countries.”

Many business groups are concerned that President Trump’s tough stance on immigration—as reflected in the administration’s stricter border controls and the rollback of protections for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented young people brought to this country as children—may be dampening the desire of many foreign nationals to visit the U.S., although the trend cited by the Visit U.S. Coalition began before Trump became president.

In addition to U.S. Travel and AHLA, the coalition’s founding members include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, and ASAE, among others.

“ASAE is proud to join U.S. Travel and other like-minded associations that are concerned with the decline in international travel to the United States,” said ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE. “It’s in our common interest to work with our association colleagues and policymakers to reverse this downward trajectory. We understand and support the need for security, but we also need to better communicate that America is a welcoming destination for international visitors.”

(franckreporter/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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