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Int’l Travel to U.S. continues slide, U.S. airlines should start promotion

JFK airport

Although travel to and within the United States grew 2.2% year-over-year in September, international inbound travel contracted 0.4% in September, marking the fifth month in negative territory in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association's latest Travel Trends Index (TTI).

The Leading Travel Index (LTI), the predictive element of the TTI, projects inbound travel volume will decline 0.6% over the next six months as prolonged trade tensions and the high value of the dollar continue to weigh on demand for travel to the U.S. The TTI is prepared for U.S. Travel by the research firm Oxford Economics.

"There is a global travel boom, but too many of those visitor dollars are going to places other than the U.S., which is leaving jobs, exports and economic growth on the table," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "Opportunities are at hand to create an environment for growth, and we can and should do everything possible to get there."

Though there are numerous factors, Dow said, there is one where we need to take immediate action: renew Brand USA, the destination marketing organization tasked with promoting travel to the United States.

As U.S. Travel Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes told a House subcommittee last week, Brand USA keeps the U.S. competitive in the global travel market and prevents the U.S. slide in global travel market share from being worse. U.S. Travel is hopeful that the House Energy and Commerce Committee will further consider the Brand USA reauthorization bill this month—after which the challenge will be to find time on the crowded legislative schedule for a full House vote.

Brand USA is supported through a public-private partnership. For every $14 a foreign traveler spends on an Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, a document that allows a visitor from abroad to enter the United States without a visa, $10 goes to Brand USA, with a maximum payout of $100 million every year.

The ESTA fee will be raised to $21. The new allocation structure will be $4 to Customs and Border Protection (CBP); $7 to Brand USA, which will max out at $100 million; and $10 to the general fund.

However, President Trump and Airlines for America (A4A) opposed portion of ESTA fees to go to Brand USA. Earlier, A4A wrote in a letter to Senate leaders saying that “In an era of extremely scarce federal resources and an elevated level of security concern, the rationing of federal revenues like those collected from the ESTA fee should be prioritized for securing our nation — not for advertising,”.

Brand USA and United Airlines already announced a multi-year, global sponsorship agreement to promote international travel across the United States. But it is not enough, all U.S. airlines that offer international services should join promoting the country.

Click here to read the full TTI-September 2019 report.





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