There are a number of reasons why it is
both appropriate and significant for the World Travel and Tourism
Council to hold its annual summit in the U.S.
It is, first of
all, home to the worlds largest travel and tourism economy. Also,
the U.S. drives much of what happens in other tourism economies
around the world, by virtue of its popular culture and the desire
of its citizens to see the world. And the U.S. is a rich and
popular destination in its own right.
A more sobering
reason, however, is that all these things could be less true
tomorrow if the U.S. government persists in the belief that this
sector of the economy can pretty much take care of
To a large extent,
of course, travel and tourism can take care of itself. Market
forces and private enterprise have combined to give the U.S. a
dynamic and competitive travel industry.
But an important
part of its growth potential, the inbound market, has been
undermined by the federal government for many years. Elsewhere in
this issue, you can read about the decline in the U.S. market share
of international visitor spending and international visitation.
This problem goes far beyond the governments oft-noted refusal to
finance an international tourism marketing campaign.
It goes to security
practices, visa and passport regulations, an atmosphere of
suspicion and a foreign policy that too often prefers unilateral
action to collaboration and multilateralism.
Despite the public
gestures and polite promises of the departments of State and
Homeland Security, the U.S. is not seen as a welcoming nation.
Visitors have to be more than tolerated. They have to be
encouraged, enticed, welcomed, treated with respect, surprised,
thanked and invited to return -- at every opportunity.
Many U.S. travel
companies have developed a culture of hospitality in which these
practices are deeply ingrained and virtually automatic. Some
international destinations have done the same thing.
The U.S. has
The WTTCs presence
in Washington this week is, among other things, a reminder that
this must change.
... in a
the hundreds of international delegates from dozens of nations who
are attending the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in
Washington this week, welcome to America. We hope your experiences
traveling here reflected our governments promise to process your
entry efficiently and to treat you with respect.
If you arrived on
U.S. soil with concerns about whether the environment here is
tourist-friendly, we hope your experience dispels any doubt you
might have about the U.S. as a welcoming nation. We hope your
exposure to our culture is enlightening and, in the end, profitable
in every meaning of that word.
representatives of the U.S. government who are attending the
summit, welcome to the travel industry. We believe that you, too,
will receive a warm welcome and be exposed to ideas that will
enrich your understanding of tourisms role in our economy and how
tourism promotion is, in fact, an extension of
Our wish is that
this summit will be remembered as the beginning of a long and