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2010 Pow Wow Conference

All photos courtesy U.S. Travel Association

ORLANDO, Fla. — The travel industry is a critical part of President Barack Obama’s goal to double exports in the next five years, a top administration official told delegates to the annual International Pow Wow at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.

“The travel and tourism industry accounts for 24 percent of all U.S. services exports and 8 percent of our total exports, and the National Export Initiative will help the industry expand, especially by making the rest of the economy grow,” Francisco J. Sánchez, undersecretary of commerce for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, told a Pow Wow luncheon.

“Exports have reached a two-year high already, and President Obama’s goal of doubling exports in the next five years to support 2 million jobs is the objective of the International Trade Administration.”

Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a keynote address to the conference, echoed Sánchez’s remarks about the role of tourism in meeting the export goals.

“Most people aren’t aware that travel and tourism counts among U.S. exports — and it’s a major factor,” said Donohue. “Bolstering travel and tourism can and must play a major role in achieving that goal.”

“Despite the recent global economic downturn, the United States still enjoyed a $22 billion trade surplus for travel and tourism in 2009,” said Sánchez. “That is not chump change in a globally competitive environment.  So your work has larger implications that we often fail to appreciate fully.  You are an economic powerhouse that merits more attention.”

Sánchez said that is why Congress passed, with Obama’s support, the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, which creates a public-private partnership to promote travel to the United States.

He said the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration are reviewing applications for the new corporation’s board of directors, and the announcement of the board will be made “on a quick timetable.”

“Secretary [Gary] Locke has been very clear he wants the process to move along at the speed of business,” said Sánchez.

“While we’re working on the board selection, we’re also engaged with Homeland Security on getting the system set up as quickly as possible for the fee collection necessary to fund the corporation.”

Sánchez also presented good news about current international travel to the United States.
“Double-digit growth for both months brings us to a 15 percent overall increase in visitation to the United States compared to the first two months of last year — so the rest of 2010 looks promising,” he said.

“And a new commerce forecast for calendar year 2010 and beyond shows that international visitors to the country will increase by 6 percent this year and gain 5 percent per year through 2013, with a 7 percent increase in 2014.

“All of this is good news, of course, for you and your businesses, but it is also great news for the national economy and particularly good news for individuals who are looking for jobs to make up for the losses we incurred when the recession began in 2007,” he said.
“We have a long way to go, but we are making progress.”

More than 5,100 members of the domestic and international travel industry attended Pow Wow May 15-19. Sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association, Pow Wow featured three days of prescheduled business appointments between more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations and approximately 1,100 international and domestic buyers from more than 70 countries.