Message of Travel’s Economic Power Delivered to White House

The $22 billion contributed by the meetings industry to local, state and federal taxes each year is dependent on the free flow of travel. To make that point, U.S. Travel Association and the CEOs of 13 hospitality companies met Tuesday at the White House with President Donald Trump and senior administration officials.

Attendees included representatives from Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, AccorHotels, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels International, Freeman, Host Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International and Universal Parks & Resorts.

Editor’s note: Smart Meetings ran a survey of Twitter followers asking what action would be most effective at drawing more international groups. The majority of respondents (67 percent) said investment in infrastructure topped the list. 25 percent supported the idea of streamlining visa policies and 8 percent were in favor of asking President Donald Trump to write an open welcome letter.

Topic of Conversation

Those in attendance underscored the importance of international inbound travel as a way to reduce the trade deficit, create jobs (the meetings industry supports 1.1 million jobs, according to statistics from Meetings Mean Business coalition) and grow the economy.

“Our discussion with the president was simple: a strong flow of international business and leisure travelers into the U.S. reduces the trade deficit and creates an outsize number of American jobs,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. “There is a global international travel boom, and there is a huge opportunity to greatly expand upon the already strong economy,” he added.

Dow described the president as “a keen listener” on the subject of growing the economy. “He was receptive to the idea that travel growth can be achieved without compromising security,” Dow said.

According to a statement from U.S. Travel Association, the conversation highlighted ways the administration and the travel industry can work together to achieve travel-related growth. Among the policies discussed to help improve inbound travel: expanding and enhancing secure visa policies, supporting the Brand USA destination marketing agency, and investing in transportation infrastructure.

Jim Clarke, senior vice president for public policy at The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE), hoped the meeting would result in a more welcoming message from the White House, State Department and Department of Commerce. He noted that the decline his members have seen in attendees and speakers coming from overseas has hurt the success of scientific and medical meetings.

Clarke said one thing that would begin to roll out a red carpet for international travelers would be to make the Visa Waver Program easier to navigate. “Overall, the government needs to promote a message of welcome,” he said.