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Marc Buergi is a fellow in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs, and is an International Affairs graduate student at the George Washington University.
Many of us will be traveling during the upcoming holiday season.
Visiting family, friends and discovering new places is enjoyable. So is knowing that every time we travel we are also aiding our economy: travel expenditures help support the 7.5 million Americans employed in the U.S. travel and tourism industry.
Not only is the industry benefiting from domestic travelers like ourselves, but as more and more people visit our country from abroad, international visitor spending is becoming a growing share of the industry’s success in recent years. In fact, over 66 million tourists and travelers are expected to come to the U.S. this year alone, which would represent an increase of 6 percent over last year’s figures.
The good news is that upward trend is likely to continue: travel and tourism is expected to grow by 3.6 to 4.3 percent each year for the next five years according to a new report released this week.
The biggest growth markets are Asia and South America. The number of Chinese visitors alone is expected to increase by 259 percent in the next five years, while the number of Brazilian tourists is projected to swell by 83 percent.
The new travel forecast underscores the importance of international tourism to the U.S. economy, and the exponential opportunities these favorable trends can bring. That is why the President has set out a goal to make the United States the number one tourism destination worldwide.
In May 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department and the Department of the Interior presented the National Travel and Tourism Strategy to the President which is our roadmap to accomplish this ambitious goal. The Strategy lays out concrete steps which will be taken to make the U.S. even more attractive for international visitors, for instance travel promotion campaigns in key markets, improvements in the visa waiver program, and in the security procedures at U.S. airports.
The strategy is already bearing fruit. For example, last month Taiwan was included into the U.S. visa waiver program. The citizens of that country will now be able to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa – and many Taiwanese will use that opportunity.
The International Trade Administration (ITA) is at the forefront of the government’s efforts to implement the Strategy. ITA is continuing to supply the travel and tourism industry with important data, including international arrivals to the United States, the forecast of international travel to America for more than 30 countries, and estimates of the total impact of travel and tourism on the economy, among other services.
Earlier this month, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade Kenneth Hyatt highlighted these efforts at a Washington Post Travel and Tourism Forum where he emphasized the need to consider the customer experience.
Millions of people from abroad would love to visit our county – the U.S. government is making sure that as many of them as possible actually choose the U.S. as their holiday destination.