Government and Tourism

The Gingrich revolution in the mid nineties brought about the espousal of ostensibly libertarian ideas. The push towards limited government with a view to balancing the budget had a direct impact on the Tour and Travel industry as it brought about the demise of the USTTA, the United States Tourism and Travel Association. As a division of the Commerce Department, the agency organized trade shows, “Visit USA” fairs and attempted to actively promote the US as a travel destination. Many lawmakers claimed that it was a boondoggle for bureaucrats and a “waste” of taxpayers resources. While there surely was waste – as is axiomatic when a government agency is involved – anecdotal evidence that I came across was to the contrary. Many of those bureaucrats whether in Stockholm or Seoul, Madrid or Milan seemed conscientious and solicitous of both tour and hotel operators with a view to garnering business for the US. The lack of such an agency was, in my view, most starkly felt immediately after 9/11 where, unlike the vigorous promotion of the United Kingdom as a destination in the aftermath of mad cow disease by that government, the government was AWOL. While the emphasis, quite naturally was security, it seemed that the hospitality industry , one of two contributors to a trade surplus (the other being aircraft manufacturing), was destined to be dropped off the government radar screen.

The foregoing neglect seems somewhat on the mend as the Chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable, Jonathan Tisch, notes in a recent interview “Government is starting to listen,” . The head of Loews Hotels went to note that “there should be a presidential advisory council on travel and tourism in this country. Our industry is too important to be ignored.” The US continues to be a, if not THE, leading travel destination but promoting it, at a minimum requires, government to not erect onerous barriers to travel beyond legitimate security needs. More importantly, shedding its decade long apathy to the industry is a good start to acknowledging its pivotal role in the economy.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.