Speaking on Wednesday at the American Hotel & Lodging Association‘s annual Legislative Action Summit in Washington, D.C., Loews Chairman Jonathan Tisch suggested that it was time the United States considered adding a cabinet-level position dedicated to travel and tourism.

“I do believe that given travel’s powerful role in driving America’s economy, it’s fair for us to ask government to be our partner in growth,” Tisch said to the gathered audience of hospitality and tourism professionals.

The annual gathering but the AH&LA focuses on strategizing about the broader impact of tourism on the U.S. economy and lobbying members of Congress about specific issues and suggested reforms that would help the industry. It also seeks to remind political players of the money behind tourism, including four years of job growth in the sector and the over $160 billion in sales generated by hotels alone. According to Tisch, “In 2013, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated $2.1 trillion in economic output and supported nearly 8 million jobs.”

Although Tisch was speaking to his peers, the message was targeted to leaders in Washington, D.C. he wanted to convince of travel’s importance. Along with a series of stats designed to impress — “we’re a top 10 employer in 48 states” and “spending on travel and tourism has outpaced GDP growth” and “one in five Americans start their careers with a job in the travel industry” — Tisch made a push for better recognition of the industry at the executive level.

This portion of the speech is in full, below:

Last year, President Obama invited a group of travel industry leaders to the White House to discuss policies designed to boost the travel industry and the overall economy.

This is very good progress.

But compare our standing to another important sector of our economy that gets a lot more attention in Washington – agriculture.

America’s agricultural sector supports about 1.8 million jobs compared to the nearly 8 million Americans travel directly employs, plus another 7 million indirectly.

Agricultural exports reached nearly $152.5 billion in 2014. Travel exports exceeded $222 billion.

By any rational measure, travel occupies a place in America’s economy at least on par with agriculture.

Yet think about the infrastructure of influence that’s been built up around the agricultural sector.

We have an entire U.S. Department of Agriculture – which was founded over 150 years ago at a time when about half of all Americans lived on farms. Today, only about 2 percent of Americans are farmers, yet the department operates about 240 subsidy programs … employs over 90,000 people in 7,000 offices across the U.S. … and spent over $150 billion in 2013.

Many of our competitors in the international travel market treat travel as a cabinet-level post. I’m not holding my breath for that. But I do believe that given travel’s powerful role in driving America’s economy, it’s fair for us to ask government to be our partner in growth.

Tags: tourism
Photo Credit: Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels. David Shankbone / Flickr