CHIEF EXECUTIVES OF major hotel companies on Sept. 4 met with President Donald Trump and members of his administration in the White House.
The White House shared a photo of Trump and the group on Instagram.
The meeting was organized by the White House and the U.S. Travel Association to discuss “travel’s essential contributions to the U.S. economy and job creation, and the importance of international inbound travel to trade deficit reduction,” said the association in a news release.
“Our discussion with the president was simple: a strong flow of international business and leisure travelers into the U.S. reduces the trade deficit and creates an outsize number of American jobs,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “There is a global international travel boom, and there is a huge opportunity to greatly expand upon the already strong economy.”
He called the president “a keen listener” when the topic of economic growth is on the table, and the U.S. travel industry significantly contributes to the American economy. According to research by the U.S. Travel Association, the travel industry in America last year created 8.8 million direct jobs and another 6.8 million indirect jobs.
International travelers to the U.S. spent $154 billion in 2016, reports the association.
However, earlier this year, the U.S. Travel Association and other industry advocates sounded the alarm when new research by the association and the U.S. Commerce Department revealed a decline in the number of international visitors to the nation, resulting in a $4.6 billion loss in spending.
In May, during the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW conference, Dow noted a 2.3 percent drop from 2015 to 2017 in the nation’s share of the global travel market – from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent. “That may not sound like a lot, but it translates to $32 billion in lost visitor spending and 100,000 fewer U.S. jobs,” he said.
Tuesday’s conversation “highlighted ways the administration and the travel industry can work together to achieve travel-related growth. Among the policies discussed to help improve inbound travel: expanding and enhancing secure visa policies and supporting the Brand USA destination marketing agency,” said the association news release. “Transportation infrastructure – critical to growth of both international and domestic travel – was also on the policy menu.”
Hotel CEOs who joined Dow and Trump at the West Wing meeting included Geoff Ballotti of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, who also is chairman of U.S. Travel Association’s board of directors. Ballotti began the two-year term in spring 2016. In an interview with Asian Hospitality at the time, Ballotti said he believes President Trump understands the value of tourism to America’s economy. “We have a pro-business, a pro-travel and a pro-hotel chief executive officer who we are very optimistic will be good for our business.”
Christopher Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, also was in attendance. Nassetta in April became chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council, a two-year term. In a Q&A with Asian Hospitality, Nassetta said, “We’re living in a ‘Golden Age of Travel,’ with international arrivals expected to surpass 1.8 billion by 2025. While our industry is truly a global one, the U.S. does play a big role in our business – on both an inbound basis and serving as an outbound market to other parts of the world.”
During an earnings call in August, Nassetta categorized the trade battle between the U.S. and China as “sabre rattling,” noting it has had no impact so far on the U.S. hotel industry’s performance metrics.
Marriott International’s president and CEO Arne Sorenson, also at Tuesday’s meeting, has gone on record with news organizations in 2017 and this year about the impact of the Trump administration’s policies, including the travel ban and tax reform, on the U.S. travel and hotel industries.
Other chief executives at Tuesday’s gathering included Mark Hoplamazian of Hyatt Hotels Corp., Elie Maalouf of InterContinental Hotels Group and Patrick Pacious of Choice Hotels International.