On Wednesday, ASTA joined a select group of leading U.S. tourism organisations, civic leaders and Administration officials from the White House as part of the first American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism, under the auspices of the White House Business Council. ASTA was represented by Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs Paul Ruden. Also participating was ASTA member Olga Ramudo, owner of Express Travel in Miami and a member of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board for the Department of Commerce.
“The Administration clearly recognises the importance of travel and tourism in restoring the health of the American economy by providing jobs. We were happy to learn of the huge strides reported as having been made in reducing U.S. visa waiting times in countries like Brazil and China,” said Ruden. “Many ideas were exchanged with private sector attendees for addition to the government and private sector agendas designed to stimulate foreign travel to the United States and continue the progress in facilitation of foreign visitor travel experiences.”
The Forum participants heard presentations from, among others, Mark Doms, chief economist, U.S. Department of Commerce; Todd Davidson (CEO of Travel Oregon) for the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board; Tom Nides, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of State; Douglas Smith, assistant secretary for the private sector, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Notably, Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior were actively engaged in the meeting for long periods of discussion about the new National Travel and Tourism Strategy, to which ASTA contributed its comments and which acknowledges the role travel agents play in the industry, including that of driving international visitors to the United States. Finally, the group heard from Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council in the White House.
The meeting was closed by Ari Matusiak, executive director of the White House Business Council, with assurances of further outreach and interaction from the Administration.