By: Edwin Fuller
Founder and President of Laguna Strategic Advisors
The inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the U.S. presents an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the U.S. travel experience for residents and visitors alike. Here are some suggestions on how the new administration can be a valuable and effective ally in advancing some of the industry’s key priorities.
No stranger to the travel and hospitality industry, President Donald J. Trump has successfully developed and built dozens of hotels and resorts around the world. His accomplishments make him uniquely aware of the positive economic influence travel and hospitality has on the surrounding environs in terms of job creation, tax revenues and the overall business and social fabric of our communities. Most assuredly, he is also acutely familiar with the impact that having a modernized transportation infrastructure and safe, yet unencumbered, flow of travelers would have on this industry.
As we look ahead to what the future holds for U.S. travel and tourism, it helps to be mindful that we are talking about one of this country’s largest industries. It’s an industry that contributes more than $2.1 trillion to our annual GDP, accounts for $148 billion in tax revenues and more than 15 million jobs. Put another way, on any day, spending on travel by U.S. residents and international visitors together amounts to $2.6 billion a day, $1.8 million a minute and $30,033 a second. And, if not for the travel industry, each U.S. household would pay $1,192 more in taxes every year.
In his public comments and tweets, President Trump has not addressed tourism specifically, but as his administration takes shape and his priorities become clearer, there are areas where the travel and hospitality industry can ally itself with the administration and ultimately produce a greatly enhanced and secure experience for the traveling public.
Prime among these areas are infrastructure and travel security. The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) recently shared its priorities for the year ahead, including:
- modernizing U.S. airports
- producing policy recommendations for what USTA calls an “air travel blueprint”
- facilitating efficient, secure travel
- a Secure Travel initiative that will focus on emergency readiness and response
Noting that infrastructure modernization is a major priority for the new Administration, USTA said it would “fight for the airport infrastructure that America needs, while promoting an aviation system that can handle the fast-growing travel volume, keep up with future demand and adapt to the evolving security landscape.” With the administration suggesting more than $1 trillion be put toward fixing the sorry state of the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and airports, this seems like the perfect jumping off point for cooperation to the ultimate benefit of everyone.
USTA also said this Spring it would recommend policies in an “air travel blueprint” to “improve the air travel experience, enhance connectivity, open access to new markets and bolster security,” including championing the Open Skies Agreement that I’ve discussed in this space on several occasions over the past couple of years.
In the security area, the USTA noted that efficient, seamless travel and enhanced security are not mutually exclusive goals. It plans to work to “protect partnerships with allied countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program and to refine procedures employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration that securely welcome and vet travelers entering and transiting in the U.S.”
Along these lines, one idea to enhance travel security was suggested by Arne Sorenson, Marriott International’s president and CEO. In an open letter to then-President-elect Trump, he suggested that we roll out our trusted traveler program globally “to ensure that we focus our security resources on those who pose risk, not on the overwhelming majority who pose no risk.”
Over the next four years, the new Administration will have a huge impact on our industry – for better or worse. One thing for certain is that Change is order of the day. As John Naisbitt wrote in his best-seller Megatrends, “…horses are easier to ride in the direction they are going.” Fixing our airports and infrastructure and finding ways to enhance travel security without it being off-putting are no-brainers and a good place to start.