WTTC Summit 2011: weak dollar fuels US tourism

WTTC Summit 2011: weak dollar fuels US tourism

The weakened dollar could provide a vital boost the US travel and tourism economy, according to senior executives at the influential WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas.

Several hospitality leaders said the strength of the Euro against the dollar is leading to a surge in inbound tourism to the United States, with hotels, restaurants, and agents in tourist destinations reporting higher numbers of international customers.

As a keynote speaker at the “Global Mindset” session, Arne Sorenson, chief operating officer, Marriott International said: “There are more Europeans coming to the United States. That will continue.”

The optimism over increased tourism comes amid a long-term drop in the value of the dollar.

Panellist looked at how the past three years have seen significant changes to the global political and economic landscape. Shifting economic power between the developed West and emerging East, a rise in populist politics and social stresses in a number of countries, are coupled with increasing competition for resources, new security challenges and rising tensions from trade.

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California in particular has seen a considerable rise in international travel, said Caroline Beteta, chief executive of the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

She attributed the rise to the weak dollar, as well as the global recovery and a strong marketing push.

She said: “The international traveller spends more money than domestic travellers and they travel off-peak. They are absolutely platinum business.”

However it was highlighted that other regions, in particular Asia, have experienced more rapid growth over the past decade, and that the US must capture lost ground by easing travel restrictions.

“The economic opportunity for travel into the United States is enormous,” Sorenson said. “We will lose if we don’t seize it. Those travellers will learn to go somewhere else.”

The price of oil could also be the determining factor.

“The biggest issue facing the airline industry is fuel price,” said Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic. “If fuel prices stay where they are…air travel is absolutely going to get more expensive.”

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The WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit takes place at the Aria Resort & Convention Centre, Las Vegas, 17-19 May 2011. To find out more visit www.globaltraveltourism.com