Recently, nearly all the travel agents I’ve talked to mentioned that after slow but steady growth throughout the year, the demand for travel seemed to hit a wall toward the end of the summer. Likewise, the economic numbers for September showed that, overall, the economy slowed down that month as well. What was also noteworthy, however, was that after eight consecutive monthly gains, employment in the travel industry fell in September. It was a hitch in what had been a success story during these tough times. In fact, the travel industry has expanded at a pace that is 60 percent faster than the rest of the economy.
“So far this year the travel industry has added 94,300 jobs and accounts for 9 percent of the 1 million jobs added to date in 2011,” said David Huether, senior vice president of economics and research at the U.S. Travel Association (USTA).
The USTA is using the slowdown in travel-related jobs to remind U.S. legislators about the importance of tourism to the economy. It’s an area that politicians should not take for granted, making sure that impediments — such as cumbersome visa procedures — are removed in order to foster continued growth.
“Given the present uncertainties regarding prospects domestically,” said Huether, “it is paramount that the U.S. economy tap into healthier overseas markets, particularly in developing economies such as Brazil, India and China, where the U.S. visa system limits the number of visitors who could come to the United States and support American jobs.”
The USTA supports legislation that would bring more international travelers to America and help to create U.S. travel jobs by reforming our visa system. Unfortunately, Congress has become too partisan for even the most level-headed legislation, so any bills face a tough road ahead. Travel agents should support easing the red tape involved with visas. It’s not only the right thing to do economically, but encouraging international travel will ultimately pay other dividends for the industry beyond the balance sheet.
For more on visa reform, visit the USTA’s website (www.ustravel.org).