US Travel Association chief executive Roger Dow has called on legislators to ensure America “stays open and stays connected”.
In addition to concerns about the future of the visa waiver programme, Dow cited international consumer confidence, internal security fears, the spread of the Zika virus, improved infrastructure and more air links as key issues as the US chases a target of 100 million visitors a year by 2021.
Acknowledging concerns about security following recent mass attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, Dow insisted: “America is not a fortress and it shouldn’t be. It would be dangerous and costly to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world.”
Referencing the upcoming presidential election, he added: “While there has been a lot of partisan rancour, travel is a bipartisan issue, and we will work with the next president, whoever that is, to ensure the US enacts smart policies.
“We may have storms ahead but we will weather them. The US must stay open and must stay connected.”
Dow welcomed moves to include travel industry representatives on committees charged with addressing transport and highway infrastructure, and said the industry had also lobbied the government to expedite research and practical assistance to halt the spread of the Zika virus.
Responding to a question about issues faced by airlines such as Norwegian Air Shuttle which hopes to launch routes from Ireland to the US through a subsidiary, he said: “This (the start of Norwegian services) is being held up by the pilots’ association, but we are facing a pilot shortage so the idea that this will hurt the pilots doesn’t work for me.
“Norwegian could bring a host of travellers who perhaps wouldn’t have been able to visit previously.”
He added: “I want to see our US carriers as healthy businesses, but they are showing 2% growth. If you are growing at 2% and the travel industry is growing at 7%, you’ve got a problem coming down the road.”
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