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