Export plan aims to attract more overseas travelers

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The tourism industry stands to gain attention and traction from the U.S. Export Council’s plan to double exports over the next five years — at least the U.S. Travel Association thinks so.

President Obama has appointed two members of the Travel Association’s board of directors, Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines, and Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, to serve on the President’s Export Council.

That decision recognizes “travel’s power to help strengthen our economy,” said Roger Dow, CEO of the Travel Association.

Spending by international visitors to the U.S. is the country’s largest service-sector export and helps to sustain and create more than 10 million American jobs, Dow said.

But more methods need to be used to attract overseas travelers, he said.

A U.S. Travel analysis showed that doubling the number of arrivals from countries in the Visa Waiver Program would generate nearly $208 billion in spending for the nation’s economy, while supporting more than 827,000 travel-related jobs.

If arrivals were doubled in the next five years from three emerging high-growth markets — India, China and Brazil — the country would bring in $24 billion in export revenue, supporting more than 206,000 travel-related jobs.

Increasing travel is the key to achieving the president’s ambitious goal of doubling exports over the next five years, Dow said.

“President Obama’s signing the Travel Promotion Act to establish the first-ever substantial U.S. promotion and communications program aimed at travelers from other countries was an important step in bolstering our export activities,” Dow said.

There is some controversy in the matter.

Not everyone in the travel industry is thrilled with a proposal to charge $10 to visitors coming to the United States who don’t need a visa. Some in the airline industry say that international visitors are already reluctant to visit the U.S. because of strict security measures. Charging them a “penalty” for visiting is not the answer, they say.

While the debate drags on, the Travel Association said that overseas arrivals are still below pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Good times by all

Although it rained off and on in the Pikes Peak region over the Fourth of July holiday, it didn’t hurt tourism at all.

Several members of Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association said it was one of the best holiday weekends they’ve had since 2007.

Increases in attendance ranged from 2 percent to nearly 22 percent higher over last year. And year-to-date, PPCAA’s online sales are up 15 percent.

On July 5, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hit maximum capacity, with more than 5,000 visitors, as children slathered in sunscreen fed the giraffes, petted the wallabies and watched Tahoma the bull moose strut his stuff.

The ever-popular Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway filled every train all weekend, and the number of standbys was much higher than usual — busier than they’d seen in 10 years, General Manager Spencer Wren told PPCAA.

In Canon City, at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, attendance was even with 2009, which was the company’s best year ever for revenue.

CEO search

The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has hired Specialty Search International to find CEO Terry Sullivan’s successor. Sullivan plans to retire at the end of the year. The bureau intends to announce his replacement later this year.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229. Friend her on Facebook.