Spring just began and it is already proving to be a very busy season! Last week, Lisa Simon, Gerrit De Vos and I had a very informative meeting with Donald Leadbetter, National Tourism Program Manager, with the National Park Service. We are continually working to strengthen our role as the liaison between the National Park Service and our members. We are currently working together to develop a park etiquette piece that will be avaialble to all of our members to distribute to international and domestic group leaders. The NPS will also give the park etiguette guide to all coaches upon entering the parks so that all tour leaders know park expectations as they visit these important destinations!
In the last Insights newsletter you saw a photo of the IITA and USTA Dinner that took place during Destination Capitol Hill. We met to address how we can support one another with advocacy programs. USTA is very supportive of our work with the NPS, and IITA shares USTA’s priority issues, including infrastructure funding, visa reform and the Visa Waiver Program, modernization of U.S. airports and open skies agreements. Gerrit and I also attended our first US Travel Board of Directors Meeting and learned about upcoming programs and policies of the organization.
The final meeting of the week was the US-Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) at the Department of Commerce. This was to be our first meeting with the new Secretary of Commerce, Wilber Ross. Secretary Ross was to address the meeting at 9am but, was delayed at the White House where he was witness to President Trump signing two executive orders on trade policies with China. Secretary Ross was able to briefly join the meeting by phone. He was direct and very supportive, stating that the Trump Administration was 100% behind international travel to the U.S. The administration knows this is one of the top two industries for a positive balance of trade!
Secretary Ross offered three objectives for the TTAB to address:
- Review the National Travel and Tourism Strategy: The current goal is 100 million visitors by 2021—What is the strategy fpr achieveing this given the current situation (strong dollar, travel bans, etc)?
- What are 4-5 priority issues that will help to make the U.S. more globally competitive?
- How can the government and private sector work together to make the U.S. the safest destination in the world and be able to promote it as such?
Secretary Ross asked the group to have the above issues addressed and on his desk by the end of June. It was obvious to all that he comes from the business world—he was direct, knows what he wants and expects to get it—on time.
The TTAB discussed several additional topics, including:
- How can we create a secure and welcoming system for international visitors?
- How can we keep the Visa Waiver program in place (consider to have this program be known under a different name, ie Secure Entrance Program)?
- What infrastructure issues need to be addressed to assist international travelers?
- The importance of the Open Skies Program
We ceratinly have our work cut out for us and committee meetings will be fast and furious over the next months. If you have any thoughts or feedback you would like for me to share with the TTAB please email me directly or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from our membership.
-Gary Schluter, Chairman
Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours