U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today participated in a discussion about the Administration’s travel and tourism agenda at the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (Board) meeting. The Board, established in 2003, serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. Its members, who serve two-year terms, represent a broad cross-section of the industry, including transportation services, financial services, and hotels and restaurants, as well as a mix of other small and large firms from across the country.
During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker spoke about the administration’s progress towards achieving its national goal for travel and tourism, which is to increase American jobs by welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. Last year alone, a record-breaking 74 million international visitors came to the United States.
Secretary Pritzker also spoke about the administration’s ongoing efforts to promote the travel and tourism sector, which are guided by the Board’s recommendations. She highlighted the agreement to expand visa validity with China as one particularly notable success. Since the new visa pact, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Following the announcement of an agreement to extend visa validity with China, the Department of Commerce organized a special session on travel and tourism during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Chicago, to ensure we are maximizing the potential of that policy change to grow our economy and create jobs.
Another priority of industry is to ensure a positive experience for international travelers at U.S. airports. A recent report released by Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson calls for a new national goal to provide the best arrival experience in the world to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security. To meet this new goal and create an effective best arrival experience, the Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security have established a joint Task Force, led by the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Deputy Secretary of the department of Homeland Security, to lead the process and ensure accountability. The Board will make recommendations to Secretary Pritzker regarding the Task Force priorities and initiatives.
Another recommendation focuses on infrastructure. To achieve the national goal of attracting 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, there must be world-class infrastructure to attract tourism, serve current and future travelers, and remain a top destination. The Department of Commerce will provide input to the Department of Transportation as it develops its 30-year framework for Transportation needs to ensure that its equities are fully represented.
Secretary Pritzker also referenced the priorities for the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget, which will include $2 million to increase the sample size of the Survey of International Air Travelers. In addition, the Commerce Department is working with the State Department to develop tourism specific country plans for the top 10 overseas travel and tourism markets.
As a result of the meeting, the Board will be assessing its priority recommendations, for actions that will have the greatest impact during the next two years of the administration.