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What Obama’s victory means for the U.S. travel industry

@SamShankman

Nov 07, 2012 7:17 am

Skift Take

Based on initiatives enacted in Obama’s first term, it is easy to see continued funding for transportation infrastructure, national park growth, and foreign tourists who want to visit the US, led by a president they would’ve vote for.

— Samantha Shankman

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza  / Flickr.com

President Barack Obama prepares to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Official White House Photo by Pete Souza / Flickr.com


President Obama won re-election last night both to the thrill and shock of some American voters. Skift has taken a look at Obama’s record on travel industry issues is his first term to point to where things are headed.

A governmental-run TSA

A Mitt Romney administration would have pushed for the privatization of the TSA, as the Republican platform stated its “procedures and much of its personnel — need to be changed.” The Republicans see the private sector as bringing efficiencies to TSA’s operations.

Obama supports the modernization of airports, and the Next Generation Air Traffic Control system.

Funding for rail

Republicans were also pushing for the elimination of funding for Amtrak, stating the rail line  become too expensive for taxpayers. This is largely due to subsidies and underused routes in the Midwest. Obama, and particularly vice president Joe Biden, are ardent supporters of Amtrak and their administration invested more than $32 billion for the planning of high-speed intercity rail.

A representative from Amtrak wouldn’t comment on the election, only stating that the company looks forward to working with the Obama administration. Amtrak will clearly need ongoing funding to move head with plans to  increase high-speed rail to 220 mph on the Northeast Corridor line.

Foreign Travel

Obama eased travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans visiting family in Cuba early in his first term, although his lack of progress in dropping the travel ban to Cuba disappointed some. Cuba also lifted travel restriction for residents looking to leave the country. Romney would have hardened relations between the two nations, which is bad for tourism and the international image of the U.S.

Outsourcing of airline maintainence

The outsourcing of airline maintenance and jobs would have continued under either administration; however, as USA Today points out, there is a philosophical difference in the parties’ positions on outsourcing. The Democratic Party platform stated that a Republican administration would have “encouraged outsourcing by eliminating all taxes on the foreign profits of U.S. companies.” Industry experts claim the FAA’s lack of oversight of outsourced maintenance operations in foreign countries is serious safety issue.

National Parks

Obama has been likened to Teddy Roosevelt in his promise to preserve and protect US National Parks and Forests. He’s held true to a number of those promises through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

Some have argued that a Romney-Ryan administration push for private ownership of parks and energy development on public lands could be likened to a forest fire. The public lands team at the Center for American Progress identified five major national parks that would have been threatened under a Romney administration. Romney himself told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he didn’t even know “what the purpose is” of public lands.

Visa Waivers and Branding

The visa process for key tourism targets, China and Brazil, has been expedited under an Obama initiative. Taiwan also became the 37th country to join the visa waiver program, which allows low-risk travelers to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.

Obama also signed into law the 2010 Travel Promotion Act to create Brand USA, the country’s first global marketing effort to increase tourism. And, early in 2012 the Obama administrationannounced an initiative to increase inbound tourism, with a goal of attracting 100 million international visitors annually by the end of the year.

Antitrust Oversight

Big dogs in the travel industry such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Kayak, have expressed concern over the last couple of year that Google is skewing search results in favor of Google’s own products to the detriment of the travel industry. Google has stepped up its travel game by acquiring Zagat and Frommer’s for Google Plus Local, and launched Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder.

The FTC reportedly is close to making a case against Google, which would be much more likely to  move forward under the Obama administration. Antitrust oversight and regulation in general would have likely been a low priority for Romney, who argued that too much government intervention gets in the way of free enterprise.

International Image

One also can’t forget  jet-setting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who broke the record for the most countries visited in her role. She will be replaced in Obama’s second term, but it won’t be difficult for leading candidate John Kerry to fill her globe-trotting shoes.  International sentiment overwhelmingly favored Obama in the election, meaning his victory will aid America’s image in many parts of the world. The influence of soft power is often an underlying driver of tourism. Just ask Psy from South Korea.

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