Tourism chiefs have welcomed the re-election of US President Barack Obama, who has made a commitment to the travel industry. Figures from the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) show that tourism earnings grew 8% for the US between the first six to nine months of this year. These earnings are second only to those from Hong Kong, which were up 17%. US expenditure on overseas travel also rose 9%.
The tourism industry in the US and its image as a welcoming country to visit suffered from the security clampdown after the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2011. However, Obama has made travel a key aspect of his economic strategy.
The President passed the Travel Promotion Act in 2010 with the intention to stimulate growth in the tourism industry, including a £9 charge on foreigners to enter the country. The proceeds are being used to promote the US as a holiday destination through the creation of Brand USA, the first national tourism body for the country in over two decades. The project has also accepted $1 million in contributions from each the Walt Disney Company, Best Western International and Marriott International.
Additionally, the number of visitors to the US has bounced back over recent years. A record number of international visitors were recorded in New York last year, at 10.6 million – up from 9.7 million the year before.
UNWTO president Taleb Rifai said that Obama has supported the tourism industry through difficult economic times. His administration has clearly understood the impact of the industry on jobs and the economy. The President’s historic decision to promote visa facilitation and increase travel from Brazil and China are great examples of policy. They hope the Obama administration will continue supporting travel and tourism. Citing the President’s own words, he said people will be able to return to work as more people visit the US. Rifai added that Obama is the prime candidate for several reasons, including his understanding that a new job can be created with every 63 new visitors to the country.
Meanwhile, a new campaign from the UNWTO is calling on one billion tourists to contribute to positive changes across the globe. The One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities campaign is asking the public to vote for which tip they believe would have the biggest benefit for the places and people they visit – from buying locally, to using their towels for longer than a day, to using public transport – and vow to follow the result when they travel.
Rifai wants people to image the difference a single tourist could make by making these kinds of changes. He also urges people to imagine if one billion people were doing it. He says everyone who travels this year – whether for business or a holiday – is part of this one billion and can make a difference. He hopes everyone will join the campaign and help spread the message that one billion tourists mean one billion opportunities for job creation, economic growth and the planet’s future.
The One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities campaign will continue until 13 December, when the most popular travel tip is revealed and distributed to millions of people through social media. Additionally, the one billionth tourist will be celebrated in Spain by Rifai, despite not know when and where they will arrive.