US Travel has extended an invitation to visit the country, as long as you’re not a terrorist. Bending over backwards to refute any perception fostered by president Donald Trump that international visitors are not welcome, U.S. Travel Association (USTA) president and CEO Roger Dow told delegates at last week’s IPW (International Pow Wow) travel trade show in Washington D.C. that “We want you to visit here… we all welcome you.”
USTA national chair Geoff Ballotti added, “All of us need to correct the notion that America does not want international travellers... We endorse globalization over isolation.”
And state, city and supplier representatives did just that, embracing the conference theme, “One Big Welcome.” Even high-ranking administration official U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told the 6,300 assembled delegates that “America is open for business and open to the millions of visitors who wish us well!” But he added, “We must protect people from terrorists. Without that security, there will be little travel.”
USTA and Brand USA officials, while admittedly concerned about the rhetoric emanating from administration officials, not the least by president Trump himself in an almost daily barrage of controversial tweets, is clearly onboard with the security first message.
Said Dow: “We’ve got to keep the bad guys out of the country. Simple as that. [But] we need to offset with a clear message: that all business and leisure travellers are welcome who wish us no harm, and they’re welcome and we want them in this country… Our message is simple: the administration must be loud and clear that America is closed to terror, but open for business!”
At the same time, Dow says recently released data suggests that the US is holding its own in visitations on a year-over-year basis, even posting a slight increase through the end of April. While some markets, particularly Mexico, Europe and the United Kingdom, are down, others, notably China, Japan and Canada, are up.
“It’s great to say the U.S. is dying and no one’s coming. But we need to talk real numbers,” says Dow. “I get the stories sent to me all the time: No one from Canada is going to come. But then I look at the numbers and Canada’s up three per cent…”
Canada also topped 100 delegates at IPW, jumping into the top three country list for the first time in the 49-year history of the event. Canada also continues to be the U.S.’s top international market.