Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Penny Pritzker toured Universal Studios Orlando with Bill Davis, President & COO, Universal Orlando and John McReynolds, SVP External Affairs, Universal Parks and Resorts and held a roundtable with Presidents and CEOs of local travel and tourism companies. Orlando is home to a vibrant travel and tourism industry that doesn’t contribute just to the state of Florida’s economy, but to the nation’s economy as a whole. In fact, international travel is the country’s largest service export with the travel and tourism industry accounting for nearly $1.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP and providing more than 7.5 million jobs for American workers, according to the Department of Commerce.
According to the Orlando Tourism Bureau, in 2011, Orlando benefited from $31.7 billion in visitor spending. Orlando was the fifth most visited U.S. city in 2011 with 2.8 million international visitors and Florida ranked third among states in 2011 with 5.7 million international visitors.
During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed the value of the travel and tourism industry to the overall American economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and promoting the United States as the premier destination for international travelers. In fact, the Department’s NOAA manages the nation’s marine sanctuaries – a great destination for marine life lovers and history buffs.
Last year, the President visited Disney World to kick off the National Travel and Tourism Strategy. There the President issued his goal of attracting 100 million visitors and $250 billion annually by 2021. So far, the results are promising. In 2012, 67 million visitors came to the U.S. and spent a record of more than $165 billion – a 9% increase over 2011. This reflected strong growth in visitors from Asia and South America. For the first half of this year, the Commerce Department just announced that visitors are up 7% compared to the same period last year.
Some of that success is due to the efforts by the federal government to streamline the international visa process and promote the United States as the premier destination for visitors. As the U.S. economy continues to rebound, the travel and tourism industry will be a vital part of that recovery. As Secretary Pritzker continues to travel across the country with the message that America is, “open for business,” part of her messages is to welcome tourists to all this country has to offer.