AIPC 2012- Amsterdam, Holland July 1-4, 2012 Thank you, Amsterdam, for hosting AIPC here in your beautiful city. It is truly a pleasure to be here with so many influential leaders and management professionals. On January 19th of this year I had the privilege of being sworn in as a new member of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) by the US Secretary of Commerce John Bryson. The TTAB was chartered in 2003 to serve as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. The Board essentially functions as the eyes and ears of our nations travel and tourism industry working proactively to deal with expected difficulties in order to best aid the tourism industry in operating at the highest level. As wells as advising the Secretary on government policies and programs that affect the U.S. travel and tourism industry, the Board offers counsel on current and emerging issues while providing a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to industry-related problems. Upon being sworn to the US TTAB I had the privilege of attending President Obamaâ€™s Travel and Tourism announcement in Orlando, Florida. With Cinderellaâ€™s castle as a backdrop at Disneyworldâ€™s Magic Kingdom, he announced a new strategy to significantly increase tourism to the United States. Recognizing that every sector of the economy will benefit from more heads in beds, more passengers on planes and trains, more visitors to destinations across the country, more diners at restaurants and more customers at local businesses President Obama turned to his administration to create a new National Tourism Strategy to increase tourism and competitiveness in the international market. The strategy they came back with, announced this May, reflects input from local government and business leaders, including the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB). The Strategy is focused on making America a more attractive and accessible destination than ever before. It has set a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors by 2021, which is expected to generate $250 billion annually in visitor spending. The flagship of the international tourism strategy is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Its aim is to help establish the United States as a top tourism destination in the world by making the country more easily accessible while maintain our high level of security. With over 60 percent of all overseas travelers to the United States being from VWP countries the Obama Administration is committed to working with Congress on legislation to strengthen and expand VWP eligibility to nations with low visa refusal rates and rapidly growing economies, consistent with national security requirements. In 2010 travelers from VWP countries alone generated over $60 billion in annual tourism revenue. Around the world, wait times for visa interviews have dropped dramatically in some of the busiest travel markets where demand for visas is highest. Now, travelers currently wait less than one week
for an appointment at U.S. consulates in China, less than one week in the Brazilian cities of Brasilia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro, and 30 days or less in Sao Paulo. In anticipation of the summer travel season, the Department of State is adding staff and streamlining its operations to continue to keep visa interview wait times low. A new pilot program now underway at the Department of State to streamline visa processing will free up more interview slots for first-time applicants and allow consular officers to more effectively spend their time evaluating higher-risk visa applicants. Consular officers may waive in-person interviews for certain low-risk, qualified individuals, such as those renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration of their previous visas, and Brazilian applicants below the age of 16 and age 66 and older. The Department of State is investing approximately $68 million in 2012 on existing facilities in Brazil and $22 million in China â€“ adding interview windows, expanding consular office space, and improving waiting areas. President Obama has recently announced that the United States will establish consulates in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, Brazil, while major expansion projects are underway in China as well. To address immediate growth in demand and ensure that the United States can continue to offer timely visa services to qualified applicants, the Department of State is doubling the number of diplomats performing consular work in China and Brazil over the next year. To improve the secure processing of passengers at U.S. airports, the Department of Homeland Security continues to expand and strengthen U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler programs. As of the beginning of May, over one million pre-approved, low risk trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits and more international travelers are expected to take advantage of this program this summer when South Korea joins. To give international travelers the tools they need to plan their trips, the Department of Commerce has developed a Travel and Tourism Dashboard to provide performance indicators for international travel to the United States and travel facilitation programs. This online resource provides the international travel and tourism industry accurate information about changes in visa interview wait times in key markets, international visitor and spending data, changes in flight processing times at key international airports, and estimated travel demand levels. Brand USA, a non-profit organization created by the Travel Promotion Act, has been charged with the task of promoting foreign travel to the United States. Their mission is to encourage increased international visitation to the United States, improving America's share of the global travel market. In doing this, the millions of new international visitors who spend billions of dollars will create tens of thousands of new American jobs. They officially launched their first set of international marketing campaigns to promote the United States as a travel destination abroad in May 2012 focusing on Americaâ€™s iconic destinations and natural wonders. Promotion efforts have begun in Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and are planned for South Korea and Brazil later this year. Iâ€™d like to play the campaign ads that Brand USA has been showing in the international market to give you a clear vision as to how the US is marketing itself.
PLAY VIDEO If there is one clear message that can sum up all the work that has gone into this new National Travel and Tourism Strategy it is that there has never been a better time to visit the US, and that America is truly open for business.