The U.S. Travel Association called on the Biden administration to adopt policies to jump-start travel, starting with taking control of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"First, America must get a handle on the virus," said CEO Roger Dow, laying out the association's policy priorities through 2025. "We must rigorously adhere to sound health and safety practices -- especially wearing masks and physical distancing."
He called on federal leadership to accelerate vaccine distribution and to encourage everyone to get vaccinated "as soon as shots are available."
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Dow said the new administration must build confidence in domestic travel through clear public health guidance, enact aggressive economic stimulus measures and reopen international travel through testing protocols.
"Simply put, a broad-based economic recovery is impossible without a revival of the travel industry," Dow said.
He called on making sure travel businesses have access to grants, loans and programs to help them get back on their feet and for policies and incentives that safely bring back meetings and events.
Dow also asked for the acceleration of some familiar policy priorities for U.S. Travel, such as the implementation of biometric technology at airports, enhanced and streamlined travel facilitation programs such as TSA Precheck and Global Entry and an expanded Visa Waiver Program. He renewed the call for investment in infrastructure to the tune of $550 billion in highways, transit systems, passenger rail and airports over the next five years, and for additional funding for national parks.
All of this is even more necessary now, Dow argued, if travel is going to help jump-start the economy and position the U.S. for "faster, enduring growth."
"These should be the first steps in setting a national goal to welcome 116 million annual visitors to the U.S. by 2028 and reestablish the United States as the most welcoming country in the world," Dow said.
The lofty goal comes after a year in which U.S. inbound visitation fell to 19 million, almost all in the first quarter, from 79 million in 2019.
Dow reiterated the need to support Brand USA, which he said is at risk with its main source of public revenue, fees from international travelers, collapsing with inbound travel.
"U.S. Travel is asking the federal government for its continued support and protection of Brand USA, so it can keep doing its important work of promoting the United States to visitors around the world," Dow said.