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US Travel Needs to Address International Market Share Decline

Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO

Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO

By Roderick Eime in California for eGTM

At the 51st IPW held in Anaheim, California, Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO highlighted the fact that the US must address the country’s decline in international travel market share.

“When we met last year, I told you that the U.S. is losing international travel market share. Unfortunately, that is still the case,” said Dow in the standing-room-only press conference, “Just this past Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce put out figures showing that international travel to the U.S. grew 3.5% last year.

“That might sound pretty good—but not when you consider that globally, long-haul travel grew by 7%. What that means is that the U.S. is still falling behind in the competition to attract international visitors. That’s the bad news. And it means we have work to do.”

While popular opinion seems to point to Trump’s presidential style and the perception of dangerous crime, Dow politely side-stepped those issues noting that while US Travel is mindful of all factors affecting visitation, it is not the remit of his organisation to participate in such discussion.

“The number one factor affecting visitation to the US remains cost and the relative strength of the US dollar.”

Instead, Dow drew attention to the success of the pre-clearance and Visa Waiver programs already operating in numerous countries and how that has had a dramatic effect on visitation.

Australia, for example, already enjoys Visa Waiver status, but there was no mention of Australia in the pre-clearance program.

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Additionally, a new bill before Congress intends to rename the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership

Pre-clearance involves visitors clearing US immigration procedures at the point of embarkation (ie the airport in their country of departure) thereby reducing pressure on US airports when visitors arrive. Dow mentioned that visitation numbers spike when such programs are enacted, citing a boost of nearly 50 per cent from South Korea.

The media were left with the takeaway of “Travel is trade, travel is security, and travel is commerce” reinforcing US Travel’s prime objective of boosting (and maintaining) the export trade surplus currently enjoyed by the US.

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IPW 2019 is being held in Anaheim, California and has attracted 6,000 delegates from 70 countries, including 500 media. The 2020 event will be held in Las Vegas.

A full transcript of the media conference can be found here:

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