Our Message to Congress

The travel industry will need to educate new legislators By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

Today is Election Day. As I write this, the polls are open, and at least a small percentage of citizens are making their voices heard. Whether those voices will actually be listened to is another matter. But as Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Regardless of your political views, every election brings some form of change and, while change might be healthy in other aspects of life, changes in government bring a degree of uncertainty that can be downright scary. This is certainly true as it relates to the travel industry.

It’s not that the outgoing group of legislators was full of travel experts or anything, but at least our industry learned how to work with them. Now that we are welcoming in a whole new group of lawmakers, we have to manage a new learning curve as well. And it’s important that industry representatives meet with legislators before they get a chance to undo what has been a model for post-recession success.

How much is at stake?

According to David Huether, senior vice president for research and economics at the U.S. Travel Association, travel exports are up 6.9 percent since September 2013. That’s more than double the 2.4 percent rise in other exports of goods and services over the previous 12 months. Travel exports, which account for 9.7 percent of all U.S. exports year-to-date in 2014, also make up more than one-fifth (17.3 percent) of the year-to-date increase in exports in 2014 against the first three quarters of 2013.

“Travel’s export record is greatly outperforming the rest of the economy at a time when export growth looks to be slowing,” said Huether. “If policymakers want to substantively help the U.S. trade balance, there are basic things they can do to bolster the well-performing travel sector, such as reauthorizing Brand USA, expanding the Visa Waiver Program and continuing to pursue improvements to the customs entry process.”

Basically, the message to the newly elected legislators is that the travel industry is booming, and we are the experts who should set the agenda. Let’s make sure that this message, at the very least, is heard.