Travel has spurred economic recovery before. We saw it after 9/11, following the 2008 financial crisis, after the BP oil spill, after devastating multiple natural disasters.
That’s how U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow described the coming era for the American travel and tourism industry following the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the industry lose 4.5 million jobs by the end of last year—the most of any U.S. industry.
In the annual State of the Travel Industry address delivered via webcast from the National Press Club on Wednesday, Dow acknowledged the hardships the pandemic has inflicted on travel—both as an industry and as a fundamental part of American life—but struck an optimistic tone about the prospects for travel’s return.
“Our goal is not simply to recover what we’ve lost, but to rebuild an industry that’s even better positioned than before the crisis—one that’s more globally competitive, more innovative, and more unified,” Dow said.
Though the pandemic is in its own category in terms of the level of harm it has caused society, Dow noted: “Travel has spurred economic recovery before. We saw it after 9/11, following the 2008 financial crisis, after the BP oil spill, after devastating multiple natural disasters.
“But this is our toughest challenge yet,” Dow said. “Some predict it will take five years to recover from the pandemic. That’s far too long.”
Dow pointed to the policy platform that can help accelerate a travel recovery—which will be an indispensable pillar in restoring millions of lost jobs and reviving the U.S. economy as a whole. Proposals fall into five categories:
- Economic recovery
- Investing in infrastructure and the future of mobility
- Increasing global competitiveness
- Reimagining air travel, and
- Streamlining travel and security facilitation
But despite the importance of travel and tourism’s crucial economic footprint, Dow concluded that it means so much more to Americans in these troubled times:
“Travel defines the American spirit. It inspires our sense of adventure, brings forth our welcoming nature, fulfills our aspirations to connect with the world—and with each other,” he said. “That is a legacy we should not only be proud of … it is a foundation we can build on.”