United States Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo announced a new National Travel and Tourism Strategy that focuses federal government efforts to support the U.S. travel and tourism industry and sets an ambitious five-year goal of attracting 90 million international visitors to the United States each year.
It is estimated these visitors would spend $279 billion annually—expenditures that will support job creation in communities across the United States, its territories, and the District of Columbia.
The Tourism Policy Council, a federal interagency council created by Congress, was charged by Secretary Raimondo with creating the strategy to focus U.S. government efforts in support of the travel and tourism sector which has been deeply and disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy follows a four-point approach to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, create safe and secure checkpoints, and bolster travel and tourism in underserved and underrepresented communities across the country.
Specifically, the strategy aims to: promote the United States as a premier travel destination, including broadening marketing efforts to encourage visitation to underserved and underrepresented communities; facilitate safe and efficient travel to and within the United States and its territories; ensure diverse and accessible tourism experiences with a focus on showcasing the nation’s federal lands and waters while also protecting them for future generations; and foster resilient and sustainable travel and tourism with goals to reduce the sectors’ contributions to climate change while rebuilding sectors that protect natural resources, support the tourism economy and ensure equitable development. Read the strategy and the fact sheet.
“Across all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, communities are safely welcoming back visitors. From the crown jewels of our national parks and forests, to the historic and diverse sites that tell the story of our people and culture, the United States offers destinations for international travelers like no other,” said Secretary Raimondo.
“The impact of COVID-19 has taken a toll on our national and local economies, but it also has presented us with a unique opportunity to mold a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient travel and tourism industry than ever before. Our new strategy leverages the best of what the U.S. public and private sectors offer, which will promote jobs, recover lost revenues, and inspire unforgettable experiences.”
The travel and tourism sector has historically been a critical force in economic growth and employment in the United States. When non-U.S. residents purchase goods and services while in the United States, it counts as export income for the U.S. economy.
In 2020, the Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office reported that the decline in travel and tourism to and within the United States accounted for 56% of the decline in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and travel exports dropped 65% in 2020 when compared to 2019, or pre-pandemic levels.
However, throughout 2021, as the Biden-Harris Administration implemented a robust vaccine rollout and effective travel policies centered around health and safety, along with lifting travel restrictions when it was safe to do so, monthly overseas arrivals to the United States increased from roughly 775,000 in October 2021 to more than 2 million in April 2022. As a result, international travel to the United States has generated a trade surplus in each of the past five months indicating a positive trend toward recovery even as international travel remains below pre-pandemic levels.
Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association said, “The recovery of American travel jobs and visitor spending hinges upon the annual growth of international inbound travel. America must apply every possible resource at rebuilding it to full strength to benefit American workers and businesses in every pocket of the country.
“The new National Travel and Tourism Strategy comes at an important time when international travel spending in the U.S. was still 78% below 2019 levels in 2021.
“We commend the leadership of Commerce Secretary Raimondo and the Tourism Policy Council and applaud the ambitious goal of attracting 90 million visitor arrivals annually in the U.S. by 2027. The strategy sets out specific actions that the government can take to rebuild our travel economy and make it more globally competitive than it was before the pandemic.
“There is a lot of work ahead, but the administration must start by immediately repealing the pre-departure testing requirement for all vaccinated international air travelers and taking steps to drastically lower visa wait times.
“More than 40 nations have safely removed their pre-departure testing requirement and a recent survey found that 54% of international travelers were less likely to visit the U.S. with the requirement still in place. Average wait times for visa appointments have also soared to more than a year in some of our top source markets, which prevents millions of people from visiting.
“U.S. Travel will continue to work closely with our partners in the government to advance the strategic growth of inbound travel and to reduce the barriers to inbound travel that remain in place.”