Obama listens to travel industry gripes

Leaders from across the travel industry met with President Barack Obama today to discuss … not a bailout. It’s no secret that luxury suffers when times are tough, and for many, any form of travel is not essential. Delta is cutting capacity, and the industry as a whole is getting ready to shed more than 200,000 jobs this year.

So, what is an industry of “frivolity” worth to our economy? A whopping $740 billion in annual spending … which fuels 7.7 million American jobs.

Travel is more important to us than we may realize. Sure, it provides some recreation and allows face-to-face business meetings. But, it also keeps the goods on grocery store shelves turning over, as each travel industry employee puts food on the table.

Unlike many corners of the economic world, this group of travel executives approached the president with a solution. They believe we need to bring more international visitors to the United States (a tough proposition with the recent turn in the U.S. dollar’s fortune) and do something to stem the downturn in meetings and events.

Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, says, “We are pleased that President Obama recognizes the power of travel to strengthen America’s economy.” He continues, “The travel community has an ally in President Obama and we appreciate the leadership he intends to bring to increasing travel to, and within, the United States.”

Of course, no exec would give up a chance to lobby the man in the Oval Office. The travel industry pushed for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which would yield the first U.S. marketing campaign targeted at growing the number of international visitors. Smart idea … as the average foreign visitor drops $4,000 inside our borders per visit.

Okay, it’s kind of a bailout. But, at least it comes with a plan. The executives at the meeting are listed after the jump.

  • Roger Dow, President & CEO, U.S. Travel Association
  • Jonathan M. Tisch, Chairman and CEO, Loews Hotels; Chairman Emeritus, U.S. Travel Association
  • Jim Abrahamson, President, the Americas, IHG
  • Jim Atchison, President and COO, Busch Entertainment Corp.
  • Jeff Clarke, CEO and President, Travelport
  • Howard Frank, Vice Chairman and COO, Carnival Corporation & plc
  • Barney Harford, President and CEO, Orbitz Worldwide
  • W. Stephen Maritz, Chairman and CEO, Maritz Holdings Inc.
  • Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
  • Jay Rasulo, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
  • Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO, Gaylord Entertainment
  • Frits van Paasschen, President, CEO and Director, Starwood Hotels and Resorts
  • Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO, Universal Parks and Resorts