November 18, 2019

Tisch Center hosts Grossinger-Bergman Lecture with Roger Dow, President and CEO of the US Travel Association

On November 12th, the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality hosted the 17th Annual Grossinger-Bergman Distinguished Lecturer Series in Travel and Tourism. The keynote speaker was Roger Dow, President and CEO of the US Travel Association.

The US Travel Association is a Washington, DC-based organization, which advocates for policies that allow travel to thrive. The USTA regularly meets with executive branch and congressional leaders to discuss industry priori­ties, and its efforts have resulted in major legislative victories. The organization was instrumental in establishing Brand USA, the highly effective national travel and tourism promotion program. Beyond US Travel’s role as chief travel industry ad­vocate in Washington, the Association under Mr. Dow’s leadership provides essential research, including analysis of travel’s significant economic impact and products such as the monthly Travel Trends Index.

Mr. Dow began his lecture by providing an overview of the travel industry’s evolution over the last 25 years. He shared that the period between 1995 and 2005 was considered the ‘lost decade’: in that 10-year period, which included 9/11, the United States lost 30% of its market share in travel and tourism. While the rest of the world grew, the U.S. only grew by 1.5%. He explained that there are several reasons for this lack of growth, including long visa wait times for certain countries as well as a lack of destination marketing.

The U.S. Travel Association was formed, and put pressure on the U.S. government to make change. The government began to process visas at a faster rate, and added 11 countries to the Visa Waiver program. Brand USA was created, an entity that promotes America. During this time, between 2009 and 2018, international travel went up to 54%. This growth had significant economic benefits as international travelers tend to spend more than domestic visitors. The travel industry has seen 118 months of straight growth since 2009.

For the future, Mr. Dow sees both opportunities and challenges for international travel. In terms of international travel, whereas the rest of the world is up to 6-8%, the U.S. is losing share again. This can be tied to the strong dollar and the state of the global economy, as well as political factors. Conversely, Poland is being added to the Visa Waiver program, and Dow expressed hope that Israel and Brazil may also be added.

A challenge also looms for domestic travel. From October 1, 2020, every air traveler over the age of 18 will need a real ID-compliant driver's license. It is estimated that 50% of Americans are not aware of this requirement. Mr. Dow additionally mentioned issues of infrastructure. If the travel industry continues to grow, airports will need to expand. 


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