At a historic Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the Travel Business Roundtable with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, nearly 300 industry leaders as well as senior members of the Bush Administration and Congress convened to address many of the key issues facing the industry.
Co-hosted by Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of TBR and Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, and Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this year's event entitled Securing the Future of Travel and Tourism focused on the impact of national security on travel and tourism; the need to harmonize security policies with the mobility of people and commerce; and on promoting the U.S as an international destination of choice.
The impressive lineup of speakers included:
The Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary, U.S. Department of State;
The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation;
The Honorable Gale Norton, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior;
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman, Senate Democratic Policy Committee;
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chairman, House Subcommittee on Homeland Security; and
Mayor Manuel Diaz of Miami, Florida.
"This year's gathering is further proof that by working together as partners with our elected officials, we can address the challenges that face not only our industry, but our nation and the economy as a whole," noted Tisch. "The exchange of ideas and information will surely yield long-term benefits that will help secure our borders, while also fostering economic growth and creating jobs. This type of gathering could not have happened 10 years ago."
Highlights from the day include:
Keynote Luncheon Address featuring The Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary, U.S. Department of State
Secretary Powell emphasized the need to have secure borders and open doors, stating, “We can continue to be a welcoming country even as we take measures to secure our borders.” He went on to note “a strong economy is just as essential to national security as a strong defense. Travel and tourism is one of the most vital segments of that economy.” Secretary Powell also acknowledged that having people from around the world visit our country and experience our way of life helps him do foreign policy.
State and Local Efforts to Create Growth in Travel and Tourism:
Mayor Manuel Diaz from Miami, FL, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports Committee to which its Tourism Task force reports, stressed the need to create a cabinet level post for travel and tourism. His remarks were met with a resounding applause from the audience.
Outlook from the Senate:
Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman, Senate Democratic Policy Committee spoke about the challenges facing the industry and expressed his support for extending the deadline for new biometric passports. The Senator also indicated the need to have an international travel and tourism promotion effort, especially given the negative perception of the U.S. in many parts of the world.
Ensuring our Transportation Infrastructure for the Next Century:
The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation, underscored that travel and tourism is essential to the fabric of America, and that safe, efficient transportation is vital to the industry. "Everyone deserves a safe and worry free trip," he noted while also indicating the industry's ability to create jobs, which is a cornerstone of the Bush Administration's economic goals.
Current State of the Travel and Tourism Industry:
CEOs representing various sectors of the travel industry - hotels, airlines, transportation and shopping centers - discussed the impact of the series of challenges the industry has faced. And, while there are positive signs of a rebound and great optimism for the summer travel season, the industry still feels vulnerable to the risk of a major catastrophic event. Curtis Nelson, President and COO, Carlson Companies, said that the rebound had been phenomenal, but distinguished between leisure travel, which remained quite strong, with business travel, which is the last to see recovery. Robert Crandall, Retired Chairman, President and CEO of AMR Corporation and American Airlines addressed the challenges of the airline industry, which continues to lose money. He also stated his belief that it is wrong to continually pose higher fees and taxes on travelers.
Economic Importance of America's National Parks:
The Honorable Gale Norton, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior spoke about her department's role in promoting tourism, stressing the importance of promoting the National Parks as well as heritage and recreational tourism.
Coordinating Security Policies with the Flow of Commerce to Facilitate Growth in Travel and Tourism:
On a panel focusing on security policies and the flow of commerce, Jay Kriegel, Executive Director of New York City 2012, spoke about the significance of having the Olympics in New York in 2012. The event would bring 500,000 visitors from abroad for 17 days, generating nearly $12 billion for the region. One of the challenges he said they face is on new visa policies and the need to have a declaration from the President that assures that athletes will be able to enter the U.S. to participate in the games.
On Tuesday evening, TBR hosted a CEO VIP Awards Dinner where TBR honored Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge with its annual Leadership in Tourism Award. The award is given each year to a public servant who has demonstrated a deep commitment to and understanding of the travel and tourism industry. A longstanding supporter of the industry, Secretary Ridge was chosen to receive the award this year for his commitment to balancing the nation's security needs with encouraging economic growth and prosperity. At that time, Secretary Ridge also pledged his support for the industry and his understanding of the issues that are facing it.
The first Travel and Tourism Summit co-hosted by TBR and the Chamber was held last year and focused on Re-Igniting Travel and Tourism following the events in September 2001, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the struggling economy, and the SARS pandemic, all of which plunged the industry into one of the most challenging periods in its history.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.