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Remarks at the U.S. Travel Association International Pow Wow 2009, Miami Beach, Florida


Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at the U.S. Travel Association International Pow Wow 2009
Miami Beach, Florida

Thank you for the kind words, Roger. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to participate in the International Pow Wow in Miami Beach.

I do, though, admit to being a little disappointed that we’re not having this meeting in February.

Just something to consider for next year.

As many of you know, before becoming Commerce Secretary, I was the governor of Washington State. And when it comes to tourism, Miami and Washington have a lot in common.

Both are blessed with great natural beauty. In Washington, we have the Cascades and the Pacific and the man-made draws of places like the Experience Music Project and Safeco Field where my Mariners play.

Tourists are big fans of both places, and that helped make me a big fan of the travel and tourism industry. It was and remains a key contributor to the economy and important source of employment.

So I have been looking forward to this meeting. I want to thank the U.S. Travel Association, and Roger Dow and Bruce Bommarito in particular, for including me today.

I recognize the hard work and the contributions that everyone here makes to the global travel and tourism industry on a daily basis.

I know, too, that this hasn’t been the easiest year for many of you. But we do see glimmers of hope ahead.

Today, the Commerce Department is releasing the international travel forecast out to 2013.

The numbers are a reminder about how difficult the current global economic climate.

So let me get the tough news out of the way first:

There is a projected decline in international travel of 8 percent by the end of 2009.

But as we’re seeing throughout the economy, while we may not be out of the woods yet, there are glimmers of sunlight showing through the trees.

The “good news” is this: We see a soft recovery by the end of 2010, as we forecast a 3 percent growth in international travel for that year.

Following 2010, we estimate 5 percent annual increases through 2013 to take us to a record 64 million international travelers experiencing America—our land, our culture and our people.

These are, of course, projections. We all have to do our part to ensure the turnaround.

Together, this audience represents the breadth of sectors that generate the impressive $1.3 trillion in sales this industry contributes to the U.S. economy.

For every airplane filled with visitors, our nation offers transportation, accommodations, meals, sightseeing, entertainment, shopping and other services that have a huge, positive impact on the economy.

As Commerce Secretary, I’m especially pleased to note that travel and tourism is responsible for over one-fourth of all services exports for the United States.

In 2008, your efforts helped to bring a record 58 million international travelers to America. This generated over $140 billion in receipts, and it supported nearly 1 million jobs.

And for the 20th consecutive year, travel and tourism produced a travel trade surplus for the U.S.—a record $29.7 billion.

What is impossible to count are the friendships that were formed, the perspectives that were broadened, or the discoveries that were made about a new culture and country. But these, also, are the benefits of a vibrant travel and tourism industry.

In a post-9/11 world, they are more important than ever.

At the Commerce Department, we are committed to doing our part to foster those connections. We are committed to working with you so that the industry meets the projections of growth in the coming year.

On June 9, I will be meeting with the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to discuss how government and industry can work together to make it easier for international travelers to visit America.

Then, this fall, I will convene the Tourism Policy Council to expand our interagency communications and collaboration on policies that directly impact this industry.

As chair of the Council—which comprises more than 15 members from eight government departments, including State, Homeland Security, and Interior—I will ensure that the government considers industry’s interests fully in deliberating policy changes.

The Commerce Department also will maintain support for the website to assist international travelers and U.S. industry marketing efforts.

At the Commerce Department, we are committed to removing barriers to the growth of tourism exports.

Through our commercial service and office of travel and tourism industries, we will help industry businesses and destinations to market and sell their products.

And, we will continue to work with you to deliver the much needed statistics on visitors to this country and industry analyses on which you base many of your marketing and business decisions.

I close with this: In my travels overseas, one constant over the years has been the global fascination with America.

The people of the world think of the great cities of America, but they also think of the majestic, natural beauty of this country—from the Grand Canyon to the Badlands to the stunning vistas of our national parks.

And they think of America as a wonderful, welcoming place to visit.

So thank you for your day-to-day work. It has given millions of people a first-hand introduction to these welcoming, bountiful United States.

Thank you for all you contribute to our nation’s economy, employment and trade.

Keep up the great work!