Skift Take

All eyes will be on U.S. Travel's next leader to fill Roger Dow's big shoes and implement these lofty goals.

Declaring that the worst of the pandemic is behind the U.S. travel industry and that this is now the year of recovery, the U.S. Travel Association‘s 2022 State of the Travel Industry address on Wednesday was focused on a reimagined, more sustainable and diverse industry, even as its 17-year CEO, Roger Dow, prepares to retire from his post in July.

“We have a robust policy agenda and a clear strategy to revive America’s travel industry, but Congress and the Biden administration must continue to work closely with the travel sector to help the industry bounce back quickly,” said Dow.

That policy agenda, which U.S. Travel laid out as “setting the stage for the future of travel,” revolves around these five key priorities: 

  1. Strengthening the workforce and restoring jobs
  2. Facilitating seamless and secure travel 
  3. Building the future of travel mobility
  4. Sustainability and growing the industry responsibly
  5. Diversity, equity and inclusion  
U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.

Dow noted that the association was continuing its advocacy for additional tourism marketing funding in the Restore Brand USA Act, which Dow said was critical to rebuild America’s global tourism market share, but that travel leaders must also look at the real value of business travel and the importance of resuming face-to-face meetings.

Ultimately, sustainability took center stage in this annual update. Executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes highlighted the collaborations, efforts and laws the association helped establish over the past year that will bear fruit, and that U.S. Travel will now push further for the benefit of the industry. 

At the Department of Transportation a new tourism officer was appointed, and U.S. Travel can now work with that officer to advance policies related to the future of U.S mobility alongside the Travel and Tourism Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce. That would include, Barnes pointed out, a focus on deployment and expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure thanks to the $7.5 billion allocation in the new infrastructure law, ensuring the government moves more quickly on sustainable aviation fuels, and ensuring technology solutions for national parks.

A diversity push also lies ahead, according to Barnes, in light of the new partnership formed at the end of 2021 between U.S. Travel and Tourism Diversity Matters.

“This move will strengthen the association’s focus and support of the industry on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion and provide members greater access to Tourism Diversity Matters’ expertise,” said Barnes, adding that this is especially important when it comes to rebuilding the workforce, including in leadership positions.  

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Corporation and national chair of U.S. Travel, spoke of Dow’s contributions for 17 years to support travel and tourism in the U.S., ranging from leadership on Brand USA’s development to the founding of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.

“I truly didn’t expect this to be my going away party,” said Dow, while adding that he looks forward to welcoming the next leader of U.S. Travel, before reiterating that his focus would remain on the association’s critical work in the six months left to his tenure.

In a subsequent press call, Dow told Skift that the search committee for U.S. Travel’s next CEO met Tuesday to select a search firm. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have that person designated towards late May, early June,” said Dow. “My commitment to U.S. Travel is to remain in this role through the end of July. If need be, if I have to do it longer, that’s fine.

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Tags: brand usa, climate change, coronavirus recovery, labor, marketing, sustainability, us travel, US Travel Association

Photo credit: U.S. Travel laid out its vision on Wednesday for the America's rebuilding efforts this year in tourism. Pictured is a scene in Brooklyn, New York. Franck Michel / Flickr Commons

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