Whether you're a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent — or none of the above — you have to agree: President Barack Obama's victory in Tuesday's presidential election also was a victory for travel and tourism.For a recap of the week's top stories, check out MeetingNews Minute:
So argues U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow, who sent an email to industry stakeholders yesterday assessing the impact of the election on the U.S. travel industry.
"President Obama's re-election presents our industry with opportunities to continue removing barriers to travel," Dow said in his assessment. "Regardless of your political persuasion, we must recognize that President Obama is unique in his commitment to travel and understanding of our extraordinary ability to create jobs. It was perhaps the president's January 2012 speech in Orlando and the subsequent announcement of a National Travel and Tourism Strategy that best epitomized the fact that the Obama Administration 'gets' travel."
During his first term, President Obama helped pass the Travel Promotion Act, which established Brand USA; reduced visa processing wait times for international travelers visiting the United States; expanded the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); and supported investments in travel infrastructure. During his second term, Dow said, the U.S. Travel Association expects the president to further expand the VWP; play a more "forceful" role in transportation legislation on Capitol Hill, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization and the federal highway bill; and negotiate a "grand bargain" to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," without which the federal government would have to make deep spending cuts that would likely impact government travel and meetings.
President Obama is not without challenges, however. During his second term, Dow pointed out, he faces a divided government, which will make passing legislation difficult; continued fiscal pressure, which will require the industry to continue proving the benefits of government travel and meetings; internal opposition to new free trade agreements, which are necessary to stimulate more international travel to the United States; Republican opposition to Brand USA, which the president will likely have to defend; and probable turnover of senior Administration personnel, which will necessitate building new relationships with new officials.
Dow also is optimistic about the travel industry's prospects in Congress, where he expects increased Republican support for pro-travel policies that will reduce travel hassles and improve travel facilitation as part of a "more balanced position where considerations of economic growth and job creation receive more attention, even as safety and security remain strong."
Concluded Dow in his assessment, "Together, we have invested years of hard work and dedication promoting the bipartisan message that travel creates millions of good jobs and drives economic growth — and both Congress and the White House are responding favorably to our efforts. The travel industry could not be in a better position to advance our agenda in Washington."