By Mark Okrant
NH Travel Guru
To paraphrase William Shakespeare: We come here today not to criticize Mr. Trump, nor to praise him. During 45’s much ballyhooed first hundred days, two of his actions have been strongly protested by some, while there has been robust support from others. I refer to his executive orders on travel visas and immigration.
May 7 through May 13 is National Travel and Tourism Week. In recognition, for the next two weeks, the NH Travel Guru column will report the facts on this nation’s travel industry—first employing an international perspective, then a domestic one. It will be your Guru’s role to provide you with essential (“real”) facts in the matter. We will then step aside so you, the reader, can form your own judgment about this important matter. This is reporting in the mode of Cronkite, Huntley, and Brinkley—newsmen who respected the viewing audience’s ability to formulate opinions when presented with the necessary information.
How significant is the contribution of international tourism to the economy?
Worldwide, during 2015, 1.2 billion people traveled internationally, spending $1.5 trillion during their collective trips. The overall global impact of international travel is estimated to be in the $7.6 trillion range, or roughly 10.2 percent of the global GDP. As further evidence of this activity’s value, approximately 1 of every 10 jobs on the planet owes its existence to travel.
Here in the US, tourism supported 15.3 million jobs during 2016, 1 million of these owing to the country’s 77.5 million international visitors. It must be noted that approximately one-half of these visits are from overseas nations. A quick peek at international visitors tells us that each spends approximately $4 thousand (average) in the U.S., or roughly four times what their U.S. (domestic) counterparts do. International visitor spending totaled $133 billion last year.
More important, because of the economic multiplier phenomenon this spending engenders, the total value is equivalent to $2.3 trillion in output for the U.S. economy. This makes international tourism a leading creator of US jobs and the #1 source of service exports—our second largest export overall—and a leading generator of foreign investment, not to mention a significant contributor to sustainable development.
Political candidates love to complain about the nation’s $500 billion trade deficit. Just imagine how bad things would be without the $87 billion surplus the US enjoys in international traveler spending.
Despite the obvious benefits from international visitation, until recent years, the US has not been terribly efficient at marketing ourselves to the world. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the US share of visitation was roughly 14 percent in 2015, a figure that is down from the 17 percent figure we achieved during 2000, the year before 9/11. Organizations and actions like the US Travel Association and Brand USA have made a difference.
People all over the world are fascinated with the United States. Yet, many avoid visiting because travelers are generally risk-avoiders. Headlines about open gun laws and daily news reports on violent actions do not set well with potential visitors. When news about January’s executive orders reached the four corners of the globe, the percentage of flight searchers aimed at the US decreased by an average of 6.5 percent.
In case you’re wondering what this means, let’s put things in perspective. Following the events of 9/11, the federal government instituted a set of very strict visa policies, similar to 45’s actions. The WTTC estimates that this led to a $600 billion loss in US tourism revenues between 2001 and 2010.
It is for you readers to carefully weigh the relative merits of a policy that purports to protect US citizens from outside threats versus the potential impact of international visitation on the nation’s economic well-being.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, go here.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.