Tourism Industry News

Hotel industry’s Obama prospects

17/02/2009 08:28

usaMaking the United States a more desirable destination, defeating so-called “card check” legislation, facilitating entry to the U.S. and funding a robust marketing campaign are key priorities for hotel industry leaders. While they indicate that achieving these goals will be challenging, they also suggest that prospects of a brighter domestic tourism picture are in the cards.


President (Barack) Obama coming in, I think, provides the world with a fresh view of the U.S.,” said Stephen Holmes, chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide. “We’ve had an administration and a president that have been a challenge for the rest of the world to warm up to. I think President Obama is good in general for tourism. How the administration tackles the other issues, I think he’ll bring a positive influence to them.”


While Holmes emphasized the change in tone signaled by Obama’s presidency, Geoff Freeman cautioned that it’s not the president, but the policies that matter. What’s critical is “streamlining the entry experience and promoting America as a premier destination, which includes better communicating our security policies,” said the senior vice president, public affairs, for the Travel Industry Association.


Freeman is an advocate of the Travel Promotion Act, a bill that would create the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership that aims to attract foreign visitors by promoting the U.S. as a key travel destination.


According to Loews Hotels Chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch, who also supports the Act, the resulting corporation would be financed by US$100 million in private-sector contributions and a US$10 fee paid by foreign visitors exempt from the US$131 U.S. visa fee. The bill passed the House but did not reach the Senate floor during the 110th Congress, but, noted Tisch, it has strong support from President Obama, Vice-President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


“Our industry’s success in Washington will not be determined by whether or not the United States creates a federal tourism department, but by how well we articulate travel’s economic impact, its potential to strengthen America’s image in the world, and policies that could increase travel to and within the United States,” Tisch said via e-mail.


He said that according to Oxford Economics, a U.K.-based economics-forecasting consultancy, a US$100-million promotion program would yield US$2.5 billion in new visitor spending, US$200 million in new federal tax revenues and 200,000 new U.S. jobs. “TPA is our industry’s top priority.”


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