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National Travel and Tourism Week 2024

The tourism industry comes together to promote travel as an economic driver

By Kathy Gibbons

National Travel and Tourism Week will be held May 19-25 this year. || Courtesy of U.S. Travel

While National Travel and Tourism Week is being held a few weeks later than usual this year, it’s more significant than ever, leaders say.

Historically celebrated during the first full week of May, this year’s observance of National Travel and Tourism Week was delayed to May 19-25 because of a conflict with U.S. Travel’s IPW trade show. Set for May 3-7 in Los Angeles, IPW features U.S. suppliers of travel products and destinations in an event that attracts international and domestic travel buyers and journalists representing more than 60 countries.

Debuting in 1983, National Travel and Tourism Week is an annual celebration of the United States travel community. It highlights how the $2.6 trillion travel industry stimulates economic growth, creates good jobs, fosters new business creation, and enhances the quality of life for everyday Americans.

U.S. Travel Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Tori Barnes says the event has grown to become all the more important since COVID-19 came along and disrupted the industry. According to U.S. Travel, group travel represented 36% of international business in 2023 and is forecasted to bump up to 39% in 2024; in 2019, it was 40%.

Additionally, U.S. Travel’s Winter 2024 Forecast for Spending shows that in 2019, domestic business group travel spending was at $113 billion; and total business travel spending (transient and group), both domestic and international, was $305.8 billion. In 2022, group domestic business travel was $78.6 billion, with total business travel spending at $218.4 billion and projections indicating the numbers will continue to lag compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“We have obviously grappled with getting travel back to where we were pre-pandemic,” Barnes says. “Domestic leisure really led the recovery, but international travel is at 84 percent of 2019 numbers. And business travel is still depressed.”

U.S. Travel is focusing on initiatives to help spur travel, especially from international guests, that include making it quicker to get a visa to come into the U.S. (she says the average time it takes to obtain a visa is 400 days) and expanding biometric technology to reduce wait times at customs. Even something like federal government in-office staffing still not being restored to pre-pandemic levels is a barrier, she notes.

“There’s a lot of things we should be doing … from a federal government standpoint,” she says, “to really [get] those travelers to come here to the U.S.”

U.S. Travel recently hired global research firm Euromonitor International to conduct a global competitive assessment to see how the U.S. stacks up against 17 other top countries for global travel. The purpose was to better understand how to improve the overall travel experience, increase U.S. competitiveness, and ultimately grow U.S. market share.

The results were troubling, with the U.S. ranking 17 out of 18 countries—second to last. In response, U.S. Travel launched a Seamless and Secure Travel Commission in January to identify policy recommendations that result in improvements sooner rather than later.

“National Travel and Tourism Week is a time to underscore the essential role travel has in stimulating economic growth, and in elevating quality of life for Americans,” she says. “As we grow international travel, business travel, and continue to enjoy domestic leisure travel—these are all ways to do that. It’s critical to celebrate the industry, but [to also] use travel and tourism week to make all of these points.”

As part of the week, industry leaders across the country celebrate with special events and messaging.

“There are a ton of activities going on,” Barnes says. “We are engaging folks obviously on social media and highly encouraging the industry to engage in hosting local events and speaking out in media, collaborating with lawmakers, and using the hashtag #NTTW24.”

ustravel.org

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