Earlier this week I joined Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for a dialogue with leaders within the travel and tourism industry at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum. We held a very useful discussion about how the Administration can continue to help support travel and tourism and the millions of jobs associated with the industry.
Travel and tourism has been a particularly bright spot in our economic growth over the past two years. I recently announced that 2012 will likely be another record year for international travel to the U.S. In fact, in May 2012 international travel to the U.S. reached nearly $14 billion – up 8% from May 2011. That caps 29 straight months of growth. Many people do not realize that international travel to the U.S. counts as an export, since foreign citizens purchase U.S. goods and services when they travel here. Hence, the travel and tourism industry has been a critical factor in the increase of export-supported jobs, which have grown by 1.2 million from 2009-2011.
We can build on this momentum by strengthening public-private partnerships with the industry, which is the core of the new National Travel and Tourism Strategy. Already, we’ve reinvigorated the Tourism Policy Council – a Commerce-led team involving a dozen agencies that touch on travel and tourism. Also, the Trade and Tourism Advisory Board – involving many of the people at this Forum – has never been more active. In fact, they contributed many great ideas as we wrote the Strategy.
For our part at the Department of Commerce, we’ve taken several concrete actions:
- We have released data on international tourists via our travel dashboard that helps businesses and travelers with key decisions.
- We are also moving forward to establish the National Travel and Tourism Office at Commerce next year. This office will be coordinate travel and tourism issues across the federal government.
- In addition, we’re working with industry leaders abroad who drive international travelers to the U.S. For example, this year we formed a VisitUSA Committee in India to build on the fact that Indian spending in the U.S. jumped 15% from 2010 to 2011.
The Obama Administration’s number one priority remains strengthening our economy and creating jobs, and we will continue doing everything possible to make the U.S. welcoming to visitors to support even more American jobs. Increasing travel and tourism to the U.S. is an important way for us to expand our commercial ties and ensure balanced trade growth in services as well as goods.