Last updated: 11:25 AM ET, Tue October 29 2013

Playing Politics With Travel

Anyone who has been near a television or radio has been hearing about the dire consequences from the government sequester and its impact on travel. U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano has been out all week with warnings about long customs and immigration lines for entry to the United States, as well as long lines at security for our busiest airports.

The question is whether this is indeed true or whether this is some kind of tactic designed to scare the public into accepting even more spending by our federal government. With overall spending set to increase in 2013 vs. 2012, I find it hard to believe that we should be experiencing any kind of impact from a reduction in the growth of spending.

With spending averaging more than a trillion dollars more per year than we experienced in the decade of 2000-2010, it’s a bit of a head scratcher to think that we can’t operate efficiently enough to keep planes flying and people moving. That is of course based on the assumption that our politicians want to keep things moving.

Maybe they need a reminder of the impact that travel has on our overall economy, something that seems to get forgotten in our fragmented universe.

Here are two key facts about the travel industry that politicians need to understand: First, travel and tourism is the third largest retail industry in the U.S. and often the first industry of many countries. Second, following the recession, U.S. travel expenditures rebounded rapidly and are forecasted to grow 5 percent annually from 2013 to 2016 (Source: ZenithOptimedia, Magnaglobal Advertising Forecast, eMarketer).

The U.S. travel industry is forecast to grow to more than one trillion dollars in 2016, a substantial increase over our currently forecasted $882 billion industry for 2013. These are big numbers that have a huge impact on the everyday lives of people in many industries, from retail to transportation to food services. When taken in fully, many peg the global travel and tourism industry as the largest in the world.

As a dynamic and life changing industry (what other industry does so much to help people connect and share experiences?), travel is the glue of both commerce and relationships that bring us all closer together. By making it even more difficult for people to travel, the government risks an important part of our economy, as well as the world economy.

If politicians had to live within their means, as the rest of us must, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. Years of out of control spending have brought us to a point where we are finally talking about our deficits and debts. This is a great first step and something that has to be addressed.

Our elected officials need to make sure that they are prudent in what they communicate and where they choose to make cuts to get our economy back on track. Otherwise, we are simply watching an ongoing political circus where we are paying for the tickets, but don’t have a say in the show.