Security Implementation Needs Care

William S. Norman The state of the U.S. travel industry is not good. Business travel volume has been in decline for four consecutive years, down 11 percent from 1999. Domestic leisure travel volume has continued to grow, but spending has been depressed. Lucrative inbound international travel volume is at

By: William S. Norman

The state of the U.S. travel industry is not good. Business travel volume has been in decline for four consecutive years, down 11 percent from 1999. Domestic leisure travel volume has continued to grow, but spending has been depressed. Lucrative inbound international travel volume is at its lowest level in more than a decade and U.S. share of world tourism has shrunk by 37 percent since 1992. ...

Prior to Sept. 11, the U.S. travel industry comprised 6 percent of all U.S. jobs. Since 9/11, fully 25 percent of jobs lost in the U.S. have come from our industry. The soft economy, 9/11, security concerns, war and SARS have all contributed to this decline.

The financial difficulties of several high-profile travel companies, while tragic, mask the equally painful impact this downturn has had on the thousands of organizations that make up this broad and diverse industry. Almost 98 percent of U.S. travel organizations qualify as small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

The No. 1 objective for our industry is recovery. On the domestic front, getting Americans to travel is a priority. Organizations are implementing aggressive pricing programs, imaginative marketing campaigns and new Internet distribution formats. A series of partnerships between the industry and government agencies including the U.S. Postal Service in 2002 and the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2003 have helped to stimulate leisure travel within our country. A new partnership with the National Park Service for 2004 will be announced this fall.

Internationally, recovery is more elusive. The industry is delighted that Congress has appropriated $50 million for the purpose of promoting travel to the United States, and we look forward to the launch of a campaign by the Department of Commerce. But a series of well-intentioned security procedures are now being introduced by the Departments of State and Homeland Security that the industry believes may well negate the positive impact of the new promotion campaign and other private-sector efforts.

U.S. travel and tourism supports the new security initiatives in principle. We are concerned however that without adequate resources and further planning, their premature implementation will cripple whatever changes we have for an early return of international visitors.

Excerpts from William Norman’s report on the state of the travel industry July 21 to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Donald Evans.

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