WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a significant display of unity and partnership, the Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) and the US Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a two-day summit from April 8-9 in Washington, DC to discuss ways to help revitalize the travel and tourism industry.
Re-Igniting Growth in Travel and Tourism brought together more than 200 CEO and senior level executives along with three Cabinet Secretaries, Congressional leaders, mayors from cities across the country, and other senior Administration officials.
“This two day event marked a turning point for our industry in many ways,” remarked Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of TBR and Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. “Having seven Administration officials and three highly regarded members of Congress speak to a group of industry CEOs in less than 36 hours is evidence that the industry is finally being recognized in Washington, DC as vital to our nation’s economic prosperity and recovery.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, the keynote speaker at the opening dinner reception, noted that travel and tourism intersects with his department’s responsibilities more than any other industry. He spoke about how the country is working to protect our borders while also ensuring that we continue to welcome international travelers. Alfonso Martinez-Fonts, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Homeland Security for the Private Sector, joined Secretary Ridge. Steve Porter, President, the Americas, Six Continents Hotels hosted the reception.
Also at the opening dinner, TBR presented Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, with the Leadership in Tourism Award for his support of the travel and tourism industry and for his leadership in helping secure $50 million in federal funding for international tourism promotion. " I applaud the hard work of the travel and tourism industry; it is an important component of our national economy. There are so many different businesses - and in turn people - who are affected by a successful tourism industry, and it makes sense to support these efforts," said Stevens.
Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Travel and Tourism Task Force, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin addressed the challenges that local governments face when there is a decline in travel and tourism, citing a loss of jobs and a decrease in tax revenues that are needed to pay for critical city services such as fire and police protection. "As tourism goes, so goes the economic well-being of our communities," said Mayor Franklin in remarks at the conference. "We cannot and will not leave it to chance."
Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, who has been a leading force in helping the industry work towards recovery since the terrorist attacks, reinforced the Administration’s understanding of how important the industry is to the nation. “The travel and tourism industry helps to create wealth and prosperity for the country. In many ways, you are also public servants by creating jobs for our country.”
Also participating from the Department of Commerce were Linda Conlin, Assistant Secretary for Trade Development and Douglas Baker, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Service Industries, Tourism and Finance.
Recognizing that travel and tourism can play an important role in improving the world’s view of our country, Tucker Eskew, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Global Communications, Office of Global Communications for the White House, addressed the conference. Discussing the challenge of improving the nation’s image abroad as we look to increase international tourism, Eskew said, “Through continued cooperation, consistency and powerful communication, we are confident that we will make a lot of strides."
With travel and tourism in all 50 states and all 435 congressional districts, it is truly is a non-partisan issue. This was reflected by the presence of congressional leaders from both political parties. Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV) reflected on some of his own personal travel experiences, noting that when guests fills out a hotel registration card, they are not asked which political party they belong to. “Travel transcends party lines. The Administration must understand it is one of the driving forces of our nation's economy." And House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) recognized the impact of tourism on local economies as well as the national economy, commenting on the increase in tourism in parts of his district that are easily accessible by car, including Branson and Springfield.
Immigration and visas are issues of great importance to the industry and Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs for the U.S. State Department, discussed new procedures for issuing visas. And, closing the two-day event, Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton spoke about the important role that national parks play in the country’s tourism industry.
Among the companies and organizations represented by their CEO or senior executive were: American Express Company, American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Carey International, Carlson Companies, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, FelCor Lodging Trust, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, JetBlue Airways, National Hockey League, National Restaurant Association, NYC & Company, Six Continents Hotels, Southwest Airlines, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Universal Parks & Resorts, and others.
In an overall effort to help the U.S. travel and tourism industry, which had not yet recovered from the effects of 9/11 when the war with Iraq broke out, TBR concurrently released its legislative recommendations to the 108th Congress and the Bush Administration in a document titled, Travel & Tourism, America’s Passport to Success. In keeping with its mission to educate elected officials and policy makers about the important economic and social contributions of the industry, these policy items include several priorities. Among them are:
Restoring Confidence in American Travel and Tourism;
Promoting the American Brand Through International Marketing;
The Creation of a Presidential Advisory Council on Travel and Tourism; and
Restoration of Business Meal and Entertainment and Spousal Travel Tax Deduction
A full copy of the report can be found on-line at www.tbr.org.
TBR also debuted a new video to help celebrate and promote travel and tourism in the U.S. The award winning music group, Lonestar, lent their #1-hit song, “What About Now,” as the track for the music montage that includes images of destinations and travel experiences from across the country. The band, which spends most of its time on the road, also recorded an introduction to the video noting that “every trip you take contributes to the creation of jobs, the development of communities, and the growth of businesses.” The video will be shown by numerous travel related companies through their in-house entertainment programming.
The Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) is a CEO-based organization representing all sectors of the travel and tourism industry. In addition to the major airlines, car rental companies, travel management agencies, hotel chains, resorts and theme parks, TBR's membership roster also includes such entities as The Coca-Cola Company, USA Today, the National Football League, and the International Council of Shopping Centers, demonstrating the broad scope and diversity the industry represents. In 2002, travel and tourism was the nation's third largest retail industry generating $555 billion in travel expenditures and $98.8 billion in local, state and federal taxes.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.