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Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Obama Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy at the 2016 World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit

April 8, 2016

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

On April 6, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Dallas to speak at the 2016 World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit. She discussed the Obama Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy and the Commerce Department’s role in making progress toward national travel and tourism goals.

When President Obama entered office in 2009, the global economy was in crisis. People around the world were canceling vacations and business trips in favor of staying home. Nearly 40 million fewer people globally visited another country that year compared to 2008. The United States experienced a five percent decrease in international visitors from 2008 to 2009.

Secretary Pritzker

Secretary Pritzker speaks at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit

The United States was also suffering from a global image problem – wait times for visa interviews could be more than 100 days, processing international visitors could take up to four hours at busy airports – and there was no coordinated national travel and tourism branding effort to combat this reality. President Obama saw travel and tourism as a vital sector and a tremendous growth opportunity, and he made it a priority to ensure the United States remained the world leader in travel and tourism receipts.

In 2012, the Obama Administration developed the National Travel and Tourism Strategy to set real benchmarks to gauge its progress.

As part of this Strategy, the Administration’ set an ambitious goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors to the United States by the end of 2021. It was the first time ever that the United States government had developed a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to attracting more visitors to the country. Four years later, the Administration’s efforts are paying huge dividends.

Secretary Pritzker announced at the Summit that the Administration is on track to meet the Strategy’s goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors to the U.S. by the end of 2021. The Department estimates that 75.3 million people visited the United States in 2015, up from 55 million in 2009, a 37 percent increase. These visitors spent a record $217 billion on goods and services, supporting 1.1 million U.S. jobs and making travel and tourism the United States’ number one services export.

The Administration has stepped up its efforts to support the Strategy by growing trusted traveler programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI that now boast more than 4.5 million travelers; expanding the Visa Waiver Program to 11 additional countries; extending visa validity with China to 10 years; and reducing visa waiver interview wait times in key markets.

One of the reasons this Strategy is working is that the Administration has solicited private sector input from the very beginning and made sure that private sector feedback was incorporated every step of the way.  The Commerce Department created the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in 2013 to solicit private sector input on travel and tourism matters, such as how the Administration can achieve its National Goal of the “best-in-class” international arrivals experience.

In the early days of his administration, President Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act into law and created Brand USA – the nation’s first-ever destination marketing organization. Brand USA, which partners with the Commerce Department and other federal agencies, uses innovative marketing approaches to show the world all the United States offers as a travel destination.

Travel builds bridges and creates deeper ties between nations. It can even make the country more secure, if smart policies are enacted and adapt to the constantly changing world.

This transformative impact on both lives and economies is why the travel and tourism industry has been a top priority for this administration from the beginning. Working together with the private sector, the Obama Administration will continue to make sure the world knows that America is open for visitors and open for business

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