With a new president and strategy against Covid in place, US tourism chiefs tell Tom Parry their hopes for the year and outline the opportunities that lie ahead for UK agents.
"It definitely feels like a new chapter for America."
Speaking little more than a week after US president Joe Biden’s inauguration, the optimism from NYC & Company chief Fred Dixon is palpable.
With his plan to vaccinate 100 million citizens in his first 100 days in office, the new president has literally given the country’s fightback against Covid a much-needed shot in the arm – and despite entry restrictions on international travel, Dixon says his team are “keeping our eyes on the long game”.
Biden can help usher in a more "pro-travel" era than the White House’s previous occupant, he believes.
"I feel like we’ve been in a less pro-travel environment over the last four years. Pulling away from the global community [axing its funding of the World Health Organization and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement] doesn’t exactly paint you as a good neighbour… rejoining those initiatives sends the right message to global travellers."
Biden’s tenure during Barack Obama’s administration, which saw the creation of Brand USA and quicker visa processing times – something that has apparently since slowed under Donald Trump’s presidency – already puts him on a good footing with the travel sector.
Biden’s potential to help the US tourism industry recover from the pandemic – after estimated losses of $500 billion and 4.5 million jobs – is welcomed by US Travel Association president Roger Dow, who has been working with Biden’s new team amid the transition.
"I think he’s going to be very prone to open up international travel safely and as quickly as possible, and to measures that will get the US economy moving," he says.
Brand USA president Chris Thompson agrees, saying the organisation is "confident" the new administration "understands the impact of travel and tourism to the US economy and the role it will play in economic recovery".
"Our industry is a major contributor to our nation’s economy and its eventual recovery will lead us out of this crisis. All of this makes Brand USA’s work even more critical," he adds.
"Our team is energised. We’re prepared for this moment and uniquely positioned to bring the industry together and help navigate the road to recovery of international travel and spend."
Dow and other US travel leaders are hopeful of meeting the president next month to discuss plans.
"He’s got a busy schedule, but the sooner the travel industry can get in front of him the better,” Dow tells TTG. "Biden understands travel but we need to really bring it home that travel is the fulcrum to get the economy moving."