Industry group promotes travel as trade powerhouse

Industry group promotes travel as trade powerhouse
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The top U.S. industry group is promoting the importance of travel as a way to help boost economic growth, raise exports and close the trade deficit.

The U.S. Travel Association plans on taking a leading role in securing more agreements with more countries to open markets in the U.S., President and CEO Roger Dow said on Wednesday in his “State of the Travel Industry" address.

“Key policies that prioritize travel should be baked into every trade agreement. That list includes eliminating barriers to business travel, agreeing not to politicize travel warnings and advisories, requiring our trade partners to meet the highest standards of travel security, and eliminating tariffs that raise costs for travel businesses,” he said. 

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The Trump administration just last week added six countries, including Nigeria, to the list of countries that will face increased travel restrictions.

Dow began his speech by noting that the association has maintained “near-daily” contact with the administration about the coronavirus and its impact on inbound travel from China.

“In the coming year, the U.S. expects to negotiate trade deals with the [European Union] EU, the [United Kingdom] U.K., Japan and China — some of the largest markets for overseas visitors to our country. To achieve America’s trade goals of boosting growth, raising exports and closing our trade deficit, travel must be on the agenda,” he said.

The association is also focused on enhancing security while simplifying travel by expanding biometrics.

“We envision biometrics relieving stress at three critical travel chokepoints: TSA screening at airports, Customs and Border Protection entry and exit, and enhancing the Department of Homeland Security’s trusted traveler programs,” Dow said, referencing the Transportation Security Administration.

He added, “Of course, we cannot win public support until we have clear, verifiable protections for privacy, accuracy and performance for these technologies. And so, U.S. Travel will lead the effort to create clear, pro-traveler rules governing biometric identification.”

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And, the association is focused on spurring pro-travel commerce, which includes promoting tax code changes to help businesses, and infrastructure legislation.

“For too long, travelers have also taken a back seat in Washington’s endless infrastructure debate. We believe we should start looking at infrastructure not just in the way it serves freight, but in the way it serves people,” Dow said.

Domestic travel is expected to grow by 1.4 percent in 2020 and leisure travel will grow faster than business travel within the U.S., Dow said. International travel is expected to grow by 2 percent, which Dow called “modest.”

“U.S. Travel’s efforts are focused on reversing that slide in international travel market share to the U.S. – and keeping domestic travel growing,” he said. “These goals aren’t just important to our industry – they are vital to America and the goals of the Trump administration and our leaders in Congress.”