Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Roger, for your warm and welcoming remarks.
Bonjour, buon giorno, buenos dias, arrigato gozaimas, sabah al-khair and hello to all of you who have come from around the globe to gather for this year’s International Pow Wow. Welcome to my home state of Florida! And welcome to Orlando!
Walking around this morning and talking to some of you, I get a sense that you are in a good mood. Orlando always puts on a good show, but right now I think that there is something else, and it might be that you, like me, are seeing a turnaround in the global recession. I hope you are. And I want to get to the good news right away:
Our preliminary March data shows an 11-percent increase overall in receipts for the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last year. It has been 19 months since we have seen that level of increase in receipts.
Double digit growth for both months brings us to a 15-percent overall increase in international visitation to the United States compared to the first two months of last year -- so the rest of 2010 looks promising. And a new Commerce forecast for calendar year 2010 and beyond shows that international visitors to the country will increase by six percent this year and gain five percent per year through 2013 with a seven percent increase in 2014.
All of this is good news, of course, for you and your businesses but it is also great news for the national economy and particularly good news for individuals who are looking for jobs to make up for the losses we incurred when the recession began in 2007.
The good work that you are doing to turn the economy around is helping people that you will never know, and if you are in a good mood now, then you should feel better. Today, you and the industry you represent support more than 8.2 million American jobs and generate almost $1.3 trillion in economic output each year.
So I want you to take a moment to applaud yourselves for the work you do and for the contributions you make to the economic progress we are finally making after the downturn that caused too much heartache. We have a long way to go, but we are making progress.
And one of the ways we will continue to make progress and grow the travel and tourism industry is through the President’s National Export Initiative that seeks to build on an economic strategy that is working.
Exports have reached a two-year high already, and President Obama’s goal of doubling exports in the next five years to support two million jobs is the objective of the International Trade Administration.
The travel and tourism industry accounts for 24 percent of all U.S. services exports and 8 percent of our total exports, and the National Export Initiative will help the industry expand, especially by making the rest of the economy grow.
Despite the recent global economic downturn, the United States still enjoyed a $22-billion trade surplus for travel and tourism in 2009. That is not chump change in a globally competitive environment. So your work has larger implications that we often fail to appreciate fully. You are an economic powerhouse that merits more attention. That is why Congress passed, with President Obama’s support, The Travel Promotion Act of 2009.
The act creates a public-private partnership called the Corporation for Travel Promotion. This new alliance between the U.S. government and the nation’s travel and tourism industry will help to bring more international visitors to the United States.
The Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration will have the lead in supporting the infrastructure of the industry to expand its economic impact.
The corporation will be led by a board of directors. We are in the process of reviewing the applications that were received from industry professionals – including some of you – who are interested in serving on the board. The announcement of the composition of the board will be made on a quick timetable. Secretary Locke has been very clear he wants the process to move along at the speed of business.
While we’re working on the Board selection, we’re also engaged with Homeland Security on getting the system setup as quickly as possible for the fee collection necessary to fund the Corporation.
I want to make note of the fact that the corporation’s development of the marketing plan and budget, the selection of international markets, the criteria for selecting and valuating in-kind contributions, as well as other similar program components, will not be determined until the corporation has been stood up and a full-time President has been selected. So we have a lot of work still to do.
We are continuing to work with you to iron out some of the wrinkles that always pop up. The interagency Tourism Policy Council met recently to discuss coordinating federal policies affecting the industry. Secretary Locke recently chaired the inaugural meeting of the TPC as well as the new 29-member Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which provides him with advice from the industry on their issues and interests.
We also continue to work closely with the State Department on facilitating business visas for improved participation in trade shows, exhibitions and meetings.
Some of the individuals who help support all of our work are here. We have a great team of experts working to create a competitive business environment for you. We have industry experts in our Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. We have a sales force of Commercial Service officers positioned in almost 80 countries across the globe and 107 offices throughout the United States.
I want to recognize the Commercial Service officers from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and North and South America who are in the audience, by asking them to stand.
We also partner with 35 Visit USA Associations throughout the world to enhance communications and export promotion efforts. I want to recognize the hard work of the Visit USA Committees across the globe that work so earnestly in marketing our country as a premier destination.
We look forward to working with you to let the world know that the United States is a fascinating, wonderful, and welcoming place to visit.
Thank you again for your kind invitation to be with you here in Orlando, and to be part of this marvelous event.
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