Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, in his annual State of the Travel Industry speech, called for aggressive government initiatives to create travel’s “Next Great Chapter” through massive federal funding and other initiatives.
"Travel’s Next Great Chapter."
That’s how U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow described the coming era for the American travel and tourism industry following the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the industry lose 4.5 million jobs by the end of last year — the most of any U.S. industry.
In the annual State of the Travel Industry address delivered via webcast from the National Press Club on Wednesday, Dow acknowledged the hardships the pandemic has inflicted on travel — both as an industry and as a fundamental part of American life — but struck an optimistic tone about the prospects for travel's return.
“Our goal is not simply to recover what we’ve lost, but to rebuild an industry that’s even better positioned than before the crisis — one that’s more globally competitive, more innovative, and more unified,” Dow said.
Though the pandemic is in its own category in terms of the level of harm it has caused society, Dow noted: “Travel has spurred economic recovery before. We saw it after 9/11, following the 2008 financial crisis, after the BP oil spill, after devastating multiple natural disasters.
"But this is our toughest challenge yet," Dow said. “Some predict it will take five years to recover from the pandemic. That’s far too long. "
Dow pointed to the policy platform that can help accelerate a travel recovery — which will be an indispensable pillar in restoring millions of lost jobs and reviving the U.S. economy as a whole. Proposals fall into five categories:
-Investing in infrastructure and the future of mobility
-Increasing global competitiveness
-Reimagining air travel, and
-Streamlining travel and security facilitation.
But despite the importance of travel and tourism’s crucial economic footprint, Dow concluded that it means so much more to Americans in these troubled times:
“Travel defines the American spirit. It inspires our sense of adventure, brings forth our welcoming nature, fulfills our aspirations to connect with the world — and with each other, ”he said. "That is a legacy we should not only be proud of… it is a foundation we can build on."
U.S. Travel, said Dow, has been working with President Biden’s administration on policies that can be adopted in his first 100 days to jump-start travel and boost the economy.
He said this means: first getting a handle on the virus through vaccines and health and safety practices; second, establishing a national plan to build confidence in domestic travel through clear public health guidance and boosting travel demand with aggressive economic stimulus measures; and third, safely reopening international travel through risk-based COVID-19 testing protocols and removing international travel bans.
In answer to media questions after his speech, Dow said U.S. Travel is opposed to testing for COVID-19 passengers on domestic flights but in favor of it for international routes. He said the association is also opposed to quarantines because they are “disruptive” and difficult to enforce. Dow said that a layered approach that includes health and safety protocols and testing would work better than quarantines. ”I would not go anywhere,” said Dow, “if I had to sit in a hotel room for 14 days."