“This industry cares more about security than any,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO, Travel Industry Association of America. ”We saw our industry brought to its knees after 9/11. So it’s about getting back to balance. We can put a wall around this country, but we want a sidewalk with a door to welcome the good guys.”

Dow spoke at the recent Professional Convention Management Association annual meeting in Toronto on a panel about the U.S. Visit Program and the negative effects the entry process into the U.S. is having on meetings that attract international attendees.

At the session, he announced that a nearly 20 percent drop in the U.S.’s share of the overseas traveler since 2000 has cost the nation billions of dollars in revenue and nearly 200,000 jobs. The results are from a study conducted by TIA on behalf of the Discover America Partnership, an initiative launched last fall by business leaders in the travel industry to recognize travel to the U.S. as an integral aspect of the public diplomacy process and to challenge the country to welcome an additional 10 million more visitors annually.

Dow, who is well known in the meetings industry from his years of leading Marriott Corp.’s sales force, said that there is a perception crisis for non-U.S. citizens that they’ll have to wait two to three hours to get into the U.S. and that they’ll be treated like a criminals. It’s a cause for concern not just for the U.S. meeting planner, but for the tourism infrastructure as well, because international meetings and conventions will go where they are more welcome. “They are building convention centers in Dubai that will rival anything here,” Dow said. “If you live in Orlando, you should be worried.”

According to the recent study, in 2000, U.S. market share of the $6 trillion worldwide travel market stood at 7.5 percent: by 2006, the country’s share had dropped to 6.1 percent. (Since September 11, 2001, overseas travel to the U.S. has declined by 17 percent.) The study looked at the economic ripple effect over time, as a result of the drop--such as the potential loss of spending, employment, payroll, and tax receipts due to a loss of international visitors.

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