The United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (Board) serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. The Board held its final meeting this week and provided the following recommendations to Secretary Pritzker for priority issues to be examined over the next three years.
This week, the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board had its final meeting with Secretary Pritzker and submitted our top priority recommendations to enhance travel and tourism to and within the United States. The President’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy last year identified the exciting and overarching goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors by the end of 2021. Here are our top priorities aimed at achieving this goal:
Visa and Entry Process. Our country will not get a second chance to make a positive first impression on international travelers, and long entry wait times at ports of entry are seriously undermining that impression. We need more Customs and Border Patrol officers, but we also need to use technology to move people more efficiently. We must commit to processing all visitors to our country within 30 minutes of their arrival. The travel and tourism industry supports passage of the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. This legislation is chock full of goodness: it would reauthorize Brand USA, modernize and expand the Visa Waiver Program, facilitate the use of secure videoconferencing for visas, reduce visa wait times, and expand the highly successful Global Entry program.
Infrastructure Investment. With more international and domestic travelers visiting the United States, we must improve America’s transportation infrastructure, including our airports, rail system and highways. Substantial investment and new requirements for sustainable practices are urgently required. Commerce should identify and address the nexus between inadequate transportation infrastructure and hindered economic growth and create a public-private forum to formulate solutions. We need speedy investment and implementation of the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen) and a public awareness campaign about how NextGen improves the travel experience by enhancing safety, reducing delays, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
Brand USA. Brand USA has achieved a high level of success in fundraising and marketing our country. The industry supports reauthorization of the Travel Promotion Act in order to maintain this momentum. We recommend that TTAB be instructed to work with Brand USA to establish a new vetting process for matching fund requests. The indispensable Survey of International Air Travelers should be continued, given a dedicated line item in the federal budget, and the sample size expanded to accurately measure the growth of international visitation to more states and destinations.
Public/Private Partnerships. The communicative and transparent relationship of the TTAB and Commerce is a model of public-private collaboration and illustrates an optimal way in which the travel and tourism industry coordinates with the various federal government agencies. We seek to have this model embraced by all Travel Policy Council member agencies as they interact with our industry. Above all, our government needs a fully functional and staffed National Travel and Tourism Office that will advance our industry’s agenda.
Public and private sector participants alike should be proud of our coordinated effort to welcome visitors to the United States and to prepare to welcome many more. We extend kudos to the Commerce Department for fostering our extraordinary partnership. When implemented, the recommendations cited above will do much to keep America “Open for Business” and moving toward the goal of 100 million international visitors.