Kelly Craighead is the Executive Director of the International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office.
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It’s National Travel and Tourism Week and there is a lot to celebrate! Last year, 74.7 million international visitors to the United States generated $220.6 billion dollars in spending – a record number of visitors and a record year. Overall, the travel and tourism industry generated $1.5 trillion in total sales in 2014, which supported 7.8 million U.S. jobs.
If you’ve ever wondered why the U.S. Department of Commerce is interested in travel and tourism, the reason is simple: Commerce wants to help more U.S. businesses export. Travel and tourism, considered a services export, generates export dollars when international visitors to the United States spend their money on U.S. flag carriers to get here, or when they spend money on travel related items including lodging, food, attractions, shopping or use transportation within the country.
When people visit the United States to explore our cities and visit our attractions, they experience the unique diversity of our people, geography, and products. These visitors return to their home countries with an affinity for the USA brand and may seek out American goods sold in their home countries that remind them of their travels across the United States. Thus, new opportunities for U.S. companies to sell their products in international markets are created and U.S. exports increase.
Recognizing the important role of travel and tourism to the U.S. economy, in our National Travel and Tourism Strategy, we set a lofty goal: to attract 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. With the full support of the Obama administration and an actively engaged set of vital industry partners, I’m pleased to say we are on track to meet this ambitious goal.
To that end, during this auspicious week, for all we have done together—and the more we have to do—I, along with my colleagues at the Commerce Department, salute each and every travel professional for the impactful contributions their organizations make to the U.S. economy.
I encourage all Americans to assist the United States in welcoming our visiting international guests. Help them see the beauty and wonder in your hometown, your state capital or your favorite American attraction. Consider pitching in to spruce up the public lands and waterways in your area or be a “voluntourist” and lead nature hikes or birding quests. You can also visit a museum or historic house. Get out a map and see what you can experience for yourself within a day’s drive of your house!
Enjoy all that America has to offer. Celebrate our nation’s great places, great spaces, and great faces. Discover this land like never before.