Summary of report:
* Tourism is one of the most important economic engines of America.
* $250 billion to be spent per year to create jobs and spur economic growth in U.S.
* Travel supports 14.4 million American jobs and contributes $1.9 trillion to our economy
* Travel exports in 2011: $152 billion (a record)
* The travel industry is the #1 contributor to the country’s balance of trade and #1 services export.
* The report via Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar outlines specific actions in 5 key areas:
- Promoting the United States as a travel destination
- Enabling and enhancing travel and tourism within the United States
- Providing world-class customer service and visitor experiences
- Coordinating efforts across government agencies
- Conducting research and measuring results
* In 2011, the travel and tourism industry generated $1.2 trillion from domestic and international travel and supported 7.6 million jobs.
* International travel to U.S. supports 1.2 million jobs.
* Commerce Department recently released a travel and tourism forecast projecting U.S. can expect 4-5% average annual growth in tourism over the next five years
* 65.4 million foreign travelers are projected to visit the U.S. in 2012 alone.
* Per Russell Hedge, CEO of Hostelling International USA: “Of the 100 million international visitors the Strategy projects to arrive in the U.S. by 2021, youth travelers are a core demographic needing specific focus. Travel by 18-30-year olds is a large and growing travel segment, making up approximately 20 percent of all international arrivals worldwide and expected to grow by more than 50 percent by the year 2020.
* The U.S. State Department has already added 100 workers and expanded hours to process tourist visa applications in China and Brazil, both seen as key markets for the U.S. tourism market.
* "Perhaps the biggest single step the government could take is expanding the visa waiver program, which enables foreigners to visit the U.S. without a formal visa."
* 17 million travelers from countries without visa requirements visit the U.S. annually — 65 percent of all visitors in 2010, spending more than $61 billion, supporting 433,000 jobs and generating $9 billion in government tax revenues.
* The USTA wants the state department to begin formal bilateral visa waiver negotiations countries including Brazil, Poland, Chile, Argentina and Croatia.
* Besides easing legal requirements, the U.S. could be more welcoming to travelers by increasing staffing and cutting wait times for entry at airports.
* The USTA also wants more transparency, with mandated reporting to Congress in airport wait times.
Note by me (Kevin): The above report is very exciting news to the travel industry.