Laura Powell sat down at Pow Wow with William Norman, president
and CEO of the Travel Industry Association (TIA), to discuss the
2004 travel forecast and issues affecting the inbound market.
Q: What is the outlook for the travel industry
in the U.S. this year?
A: This is something that everyone is
interested in, whether the long and elusive recovery is going to
come. Given the key indicators, it is a fair thing to say that for
the first time in four years we are projecting a recovery.
In terms of business travel, there has been a four-year decline.
However, this year, for the first time since 2001, we are going to
see an uptick of 4.2% in business travel. The statistic is very
encouraging, as it indicates that we are on an upward slope. We are
projecting a growth rate in the inbound market of 5% in 2004. That
number shows us that we are on the verge of a worldwide
Q: What about the impact of the weakened
A: The favorable exchange rate certainly helps
a bit. When people are deciding where to travel internationally,
they will take into account where their currency buys more. It's
not a key factor in the inbound increase, but it helps.
Q: Can you give us an update on security?
A: This is one of the more vexing issues we
deal with at the TIA. Certainly, the world has changed, and what we
would have considered intrusive before is now expected.
We want to facilitate travel to and within the U.S. and make
sure that new security rules that are put in place do not
negatively impact the process. When we see something that looks
like a barrier to travel, that doesn't carry with it a security
enhancement, we want to ensure such measures don't go into effect.
And we have been relatively successful in this regard.
Q: Does the travel industry's voice get heard
A: I really do give credit to the Department of
Homeland Security and the State Department for trying to make
certain that industry thinking is incorporated in government
policy. There are always new proposals, and we are vigilant about
keeping on top of them.
Communication between the industry and the federal government is
good and getting better. For example, in January, we started
fingerprinting all international visitors, and it's working well
because winter and spring are relatively slow travel times for
But as we get close to the peak season, we are working with the
federal government to see how we can avoid long lines. The real
issue in the implementation of all of these regulations is that we
have the necessary resources to make them work without
inconveniencing the traveler.
Q: What is the status of the recent Department
of Commerce appropriation to promote the U.S. travel industry
A: After years of trying, the industry, in
2003, got Congress for the first time to provide the Department of
Commerce with a grant to promote and advertise the U.S. overseas as
a destination of choice. The appropriation of $50 million was
significant. The goal was to use the money in five countries and
then show the government the return on investment tourism
However, much of the grant money was rescinded before it was
spent. Still, there is about $6 million left. And the plan is to
target it for advertising and promotion in the U.K.
We hope it can still show a significant return on investment,
with the idea that the government will see the value of future
public-private partnerships. Certainly, the pilot campaign is on a
smaller scale than initially intended. But it's still enough money
to make progress.
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