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US must get its act together on tourism, warns WTTC

October 3, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Weaknesses in the current state of travel and tourism infrastructure in the US pose a threat to the industry’s growth could lead to fewer jobs in the sector and a reduced contribution to the economy.

That’s the word from David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the member organisation for the global travel and tourism sector. A new WTTC report published yesterday says the poor quality of US ground transport infrastructure could see the country fail to meet its demand growth predictions, lose ground to other advanced economies and miss out on social and economic benefits from travel and tourism.

WTTC’s report, “Travel & Tourism investment in the Americas: will the region’s infrastructure and investment constrain or support future industry growth?” finds that US travel and tourism infrastructure is of “a comparatively high quality and capacity overall”. http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/b2b/

However, its ground infrastructure is weak. Given the outlook for travel and tourism investment and demand over the next decade, Scowsill voices concern: “The United States does not rank favourably for ‘tourism supporting’ infrastructure, to transport tourists domestically and internationally.

“This is compared to other advanced economies within Asia and continental Europe. Roads, especially in the major cities, are heavily congested. Rail networks are slow, compared to their high speed equivalents in other countries.

“Flight delays and cancellations are common, with inadequate air traffic control infrastructure. No domestic or international tourist wants to spend time in road traffic jams or in lines at airports. Major improvements are needed”.

The forecast annual average growth of travel and tourism investment over the next decade for North America is 4.4%. The sector is expected to grow by 3.6% a year. Against this backdrop of strong demand growth prospects and an increasingly competitive marketplace, the report states that the US is at risk of complacency.

Scowsill says it’s essential that the US invests significantly in the ongoing development and growth of travel and tourism.

“WTTC fully supports the Build America Investment transportation initiative announced this summer by President Obama. It is certainly promising to see the recognition for infrastructure improvement and the funding being put behind the initiative. However, the Government must ensure it delivers the right level of investment to effect change.

“Most importantly, industry and government need to work in partnership to see through these critical improvements. This includes the need for the air traffic control system to be upgraded to the NextGen programme, which is so desperately required to keep competitive and to improve airline performance for climate change needs”.

“The US needs to ensure that travel is as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Bottlenecks need to be removed in the air and in road and rail networks, especially in areas with high population density. It is essential that ground transportation connects directly to airports and urban centres and that there is more point to point connectivity.

“A NextGen air traffic control system would enable airlines to fly more efficient routes and would cut down on flight delays, cancellations, aircraft noise and emissions. Only if the US makes a step change in the level of investment will it achieve the projected levels of demand growth over the next decade and maintain its current industry competitiveness ranking. If it does not make the investment, there will be fewer travellers which will cost the US heavily in terms of economic contribution and jobs”.

Scowsill says the market is ripe for investment: “The economy is now stable. The tourism-supporting infrastructure is recognised as weak, which means there is an unequivocal case for major upgrade work. There is a real opportunity for private investors to seize and to work with the US Government to ensure these improvements are realised.”

The WTTC report concludes that investment is essential to ensure current infrastructure is maintained to a good standard; to adapt and upgrade current infrastructure and to expand capacity to prevent supply-side bottlenecks.

The US is the biggest tourism economy in the world. According to WTTC’s 2014 US Economic Impact Report, the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was 8.4% (USD 1,416.0 billion) and visitor exports generated 8.4% of total exports (USD 190.1 billion) in 2013, (including direct, indirect, and induced). Travel is the second-largest US export by industry and accounts for almost a third (31.2%) of US service exports and almost a tenth (9.4%) of exports of all goods and services, according to the US Travel Association.

Scowsill believes the US has to do the following to maintain and grow its market share of visitors and appeal to an ever-growing and diverse group of travellers: “The US needs to ensure that travel is as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Bottlenecks need to be removed in air and in road and rail networks, especially in areas with high population density. It’s essential that ground transportation connects directly to airports and urban centres and that there is more point to point connectivity.

“A NextGen air traffic control system would enable airlines to fly more efficient routes and would cut down on flight delays, cancellations, aircraft noise and emissions. Only if the US makes a step change in the level of investment will it achieve the projected levels of demand growth over the next decade and maintain its current industry competitiveness ranking. If it does not make the investment, there will be fewer travellers which will cost the US heavily in terms of economic contribution and jobs”.

Edited by : Peter Needham

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