Travel and Tourism: Economic Engine for America's Cities

Article excerpt

Travel and tourism is the country's third largest retail industry, its second largest employer, and a business that annually generates more than $500 billion in economic activity and more than $71 billion in tax revenues.

It also is an industry that needs the support of elected, officials at all levels of government--federal, state, and local.

Projected to be the world's largest industry by the year 2000, travel and tourism employs more that 16 million Americans directly or indirectly. As America's leading services export, travel and tourism created a trade surplus of nearly $25 billion in 1998, injecting $91 billion of revenue into the U.S. economy.

Despite these impressive figures, the travel and tourism industry has remained an under-appreciated and often overlooked force in the U.S. economy. Part of the reason for this is that up until the White House conference on Travel and Tourism in 1995, the industry's various sectors had not collaborated with each other. But as a result of that event, we began to see the benefits of putting aside our individual differences and agendas and working together for a common goal. That notion is behind a concept I refer to as the "Power of Partnerships."

Although the travel and tourism industry is flourishing today, it is important that the public and private sectors continue to work together flit is to continue at its present pace. The alliances we create with each other, and with government, are critical to our future success.

As a follow up to the White House Conference, a permanent organization--the Travel Business Roundtable--was formed to continue addressing the issues facing the travel industry. The Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) is a coalition of more than 70 CEOs representing all sectors of the travel and tourism industry. In addition to the major airlines, car rental companies, travel management agencies, and hotel chains, TBR's membership roster also includes companies such as Coca-Cola, USA Today, and the International Council of Shopping Centers, demonstrating the broad scope and diversity the industry represents.

With travel and tourism the first, second, or third largest industry in 33 states, it is appropriate that the TBR is working closely with new partners like the National League of Cities. NLC and the industry have some key goals in common, such as promoting travel and tourism, investing in transportation, and opposing federal tax reform that would inhibit improvements to airports and highways. …