The Chairman of Loews Hotels, Jonathan M. Tisch, has called for unity in the United States travel industry so the nation can compete in the international travel market.
Speaking at the 35th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York on Monday (June 3), an event of which he is the Chairman, Tisch pushed for public policy reforms to help the sector.
“Given travel’s increasingly prominent role in promoting growth and job creation, our industry needs public policies that reflect travel’s value to the economy,” he told the 1800 attendees.
Among the changes Tisch called for were improvements to the Customs and entry process at our nation’s gateway airports, investments to upgrade the country’s travel infrastructure and legislation to make permanent recent improvements in visa processing.
Noting that the global middle class is projected to grow by more than 3 billion people by 2030, Tisch argued, “Our industry’s future depends on our ability to compete and win in the international travel market.”
He said a key challenge to winning a growing share of international travellers is providing a seamless travel experience.
“We need to capture their attention in their home countries, spur their interest in visiting the United States, make it easy for them to get here and, once they arrive, provide a welcoming enjoyable experience,” he said.
Tisch said this begins by providing a “great travel experience from the earliest stage of a trip,” starting with obtaining a visa. He congratulated the Obama Administration for slashing visa wait times for Chinese travellers from more than 100 to just five days and for cutting wait times in Brazil by 98%.
“Our success in improving the visa process provides a model for action,” he said. “Now we need to turn this same focused attention to the next barrier visitors to the U.S. face – an unwelcoming Customs process.”
Citing recent survey data from the U.S. Travel Association, Tisch said that more than 40% of U.S. visitors plan on telling friends or colleagues to avoid traveling to the U.S. because of the current Customs and entry process – largely due to long Customs lines.
“An investment in 1,000 additional Customs and Border Protection officials at our gateway airports could help meet a 30-minute goal for clearing international visitors through Customs,” he said.
To meet growing travel demand, Tisch also underscored the ongoing need for upgrading travel infrastructure.
“The hard truth is, America’s ageing infrastructure cannot handle the travellers we already have, much less the millions of new travellers we’re trying to attract.”
In closing, Tisch voiced his support for the immigration bill working its way through the U.S. Senate.
“Immigrants come to America to forge a better life for themselves and their families,” he said. “It’s a great source of pride for us that many take their first steps up the ladder of opportunity in the hospitality industry.”
Tisch said that provisions in the Senate immigration bill would address some of challenges raised in his remarks – including codifying visa improvements into law and providing enough funding for additional Customs agents to improve the entry process.
His comments came a week before the United States Travel Association’s International Pow Wow is held in Las Vegas, Nevada, where calls for unity in the industry are expected to be echoed.
HM travelled to New York on Qantas, which offers daily flights to the city from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney via Los Angeles or Dallas Fort Worth. Qantas has recently upgraded the Boeing 747s that fly on the Australia-New York route, which feature the new A380-inspired interiors including new, larger economy class seats in a cabin that’s highlighted by an extensive range of entertainment on demand alongside a great selection of Australian wine and meals designed by star chef Neil Perry. For bookings, visit www.qantas.com