USTA Looks at Travel Industry 10 Years After 9/11

Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association, calls the ten years since September 11, 2001, the “lost decade.” He made this statement during a press conference about the impact of 9/11 on the travel industry in advance of the ten-year anniversary.

“When we reflect on that horrific day we realize it has changed the way Americans travel,” says Dow. It has also significantly impacted travel to the United States. Since 9/11, international travel has represented a lost opportunity for the U.S. economy and American jobs. While global long-haul travel grew 40 percent from 2000 to 2010, overseas travel to the United States during this same time rose just two percent. 

“Despite more travelers worldwide, our slice of the pie shrunk, with U.S. market share of the global travel market dropping from 17 percent in 2000 to 12.4 percent in 2010,” explains Dow. “If America had simply kept pace with the growth in global long-haul international travel in the decade after 9/11, 78 million more travelers would have visited the United States, adding a total of $606 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting more than 467,000 additional U.S. jobs annually.”

The past decade has been difficult for business travel, including meetings and trade shows, with total volume declining 21 percent between 2000 and 2010. “This was due to the immediate impact of 9/11 and by the meetings crisis in the late 2000s. Business travel returned to growth mode in 2010, increasing nearly 4 percent, and growth is expected through 2014, although at a much slower rate ranging from 1.2 percent to 1.7 percent annually,” says Dow.

With the domestic economy again appearing to decelerate, attracting more international visitors to the United States and improving the TSA security experience will play an important role in creating job opportunities for Americans, according to Dow. 

Moving Forward
Looking forward, Dow described a series of programs that will help strengthen security and help eliminate barriers that are discouraging travel to and within the United States.

“The decade following 9/11 has seen significant changes in the way Americans, and those who visit America, travel,” says Dow. “We must continue keeping travelers safe with the highest level of security, but we must incorporate principles that improve facilitation and encourage travel.”

With a focus on reducing traveler wait times, improving customer service, and replacing a one-size-fits-all approach with a risk-based approach, the programs strike a balance between security and travel facilitation.

“We really have built the most secure and efficient travel system,” says Dow. It will just get better in the next decade, he promises. There is an effort underway to reduce traveler wait times to ten minutes or less. “Travelers deserve predictability,” says Dow. 

Visa wait times will be ten days or less and wait times for international travelers to get through customs once they arrive in the United States will be 20 minutes or less.

Dow insists the entry reforms, visa waivers, and other trusted traveler initiatives would not compromise U.S. national security, rather streamline it. Dow has also said that by doing this, Homeland Security can “focus more on finding bad guys rather than harassing the good guys.”