U.S. Travel Reports Travel Growing Twice As Fast As Overall Exports
By James Shillinglaw
June 10, 2012 9:16 PM
The U.S. Travel Association said new Commerce Department statistics show travel exports were $14 billion for April 2012, greater than overall exports. “While other exports turned downward, travel exports held their ground in April, growing at 13.2 percent compared to last year – nearly three times faster than any other major service category and twice as fast as overall exports,” said David Huether, senior vice president of economics and research at the U.S. Travel.
According to Huether, total travel exports in April 2012 were also greater than major capital goods categories including: civilian aircraft, computers, telecommunications equipment and medical equipment combined. The April 2011 to April 2012 increase in service exports was $2.2 billion, with travel exports contributing $1.5 billion, more than half of this increase.
“Double digit growth for the travel industry again proves key to closing the trade gap by increasing international travel to the United States,” said Huether. “Recommendations made this week by the President’s Export Council (PEC) include lowering visa wait times, expanding the Visa Waiver Program and longer-term visas, all of which will contribute greatly in as assisting President’s Obama goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.”
Last week the U.S. Travel Association praised the President’s Export Council (PEC) recommendations aimed at increasing U.S. exports through international travel and close the trade gap. Those measures include lower visa wait times, expansion of the Visa Waiver Program and longer-term visas. “In 2010, President Obama set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, and since then the U.S. travel industry has taken the lead in identifying and removing barriers to increased international travel,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Increased exports will have a substantial economic benefit. If the U.S. doubles arrivals in five years from just three key emerging high-growth markets -- Brazil, China and India -- we would receive a total of $24 billion in export revenues that would support 206,300 travel-related jobs.”
U.S. Travel Association board members Robert Iger, president and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, and Gary Loveman, president, chief executive officer and chairman of Caesars Entertainment Corp., serve on the PEC along with Richard Friedman, CEO of Carpenter & Company, Inc. and have championed the need to increase travel exports to the United States.
“America has a tremendous opportunity to enjoy increased visitation from international tourists,” said Loveman. “We must work together to remove unnecessary impediments to their efforts to visit our destinations and, as a result, support our travel and retail industries.”
The PEC met at the White House on June 6. Included in its discussion was a letter to President Obama outlining travel-specific measures that would increase international travel to the United States. “I am very pleased that the President’s Export Council unanimously approved the letter I drafted to President Obama on visa policy,” said Friedman. “We have a lot of momentum in bringing more visitors to America and boosting our economy. The administration should be commended for seeing and seizing this opportunity. The steady support and pressure from the travel industry is paying off – we are dramatically headed in the right direction.”
Friedman’s letter urges action in three areas: Lower Visa wait times, expanding the Visa Waiver program and negotiate longer term Visas. According to the letter, U.S. consulates have experienced surges in visa demand, and the U.S. State Department has implemented new initiatives to meet heightened expectations. At the same time, demand is expected to increase, which is why the PEC is urging President Obama to establish a two-week visa interview wait time benchmark for all non-immigrant visas.
The PEC also is urging the Obama administration to support bipartisan legislation currently before Congress (S. 3199/H.R. 5741) that would amend the qualification criteria for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and allow new countries to be considered for entry. In 2011, countries included in the VWP were the largest source of inbound travel for the U.S., bringing more than 18 million overseas visitors, or 65 percent of all visitors, to the United States. These visitors spent nearly $69 billion while traveling to and within the United States, directly supporting 525,000 American jobs along with $12.8 billion in payroll and generating $10.5 billion in tax revenues.
The U.S. has 10-year visa reciprocity terms with a number of countries, including Brazil and India. But for a growing economic powerhouse, such as China, the U.S. provides only one-year multiple-entry visas. Visa validity is governed by reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens, and the PEC is encouraging the Obama administration to continue negotiating for longer visa terms with China. This would help to spur even greater growth in travel between the United States and China. Each Chinese national spends on average more than $6,000 while traveling in the United States, helping to support more than 35,000 American jobs.