Yuriy Prikhodko, Senior Commercial Specialist, US Embassy Kyiv
During a recent International PowWow, the premier international marketplace for promoting and contracting travel to the U.S. (April 21-25, 2012, Los Angeles, CA), the new US National Travel and Tourism Strategy was a highlight. The keynote speech was made by John Bryson, US Secretary of Commerce, followed by a video address by President Obama to more than 5,500 US and international travel professionals, including 10 from Ukraine, underscored the importance of international travel to the United States.
Travel and tourism is the largest service sector of the US economy. It accounts for 25% of all revenues from all service industries. Overall, travel and tourism contributes 2.7% to America’s gross domestic product.
The United States is the second most visited country in the world. At the same time, the USA enjoys a dominant, 11.2% share of the world traveler spending – well ahead of France and Spain. In 2011, U.S. and international travelers generated $1.2 trillion in total economic activity and supported 7.6 million American jobs. In fact, the leisure and hospitality sector is the fifth largest employer in the United States. More than 62 million international visitors generated travel and tourism exports of $153 billion in 2011, lowering the trade deficit by $42.8 billion.
As a travel destination, no other nation can compete with the diversity of experiences found across the United States and its territories, ranging from urban destinations and small-town America to the unique regional cultures found throughout the United States and its territories. Popular culture – including music, film, television and theme park experiences – is a significant selling point. So too are the American iconic destinations: from well-known attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, to off-the-beaten-path gems like Mount St. Helens’ National Volcanic Monument and Desert National Wildlife Refuge; many of which can be found in close proximity to major transportation gateways, including the 10 U.S. cities most visited by international travelers: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, District of Columbia, Honolulu, Boston, and Chicago.
Business travel accounts for about 22% of international travel to the United States. Business travelers come to participate in meetings, conventions, trade shows, to explore investment opportunities, and to purchase goods and services, across the full spectrum of manufacturing and service sectors.
Unlike other countries, the United States does not have a Minister of Tourism or a National Tourism Administration (the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration was eliminated in 1996). Currently, travel and tourism is decentralized, with states, territories and tribes taking the lead in regulating the industry within their respective jurisdictions.
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization data, during the last decade the United States lost 16 % of its share of global arrivals as compared to France which lost 28 % of its share; Spain, which lost 18 %; Italy – 24%; and Canada – 44%. At the same time, Asian markets and emerging destinations gained: Hungary -162 %; Ukraine -138 %; Poland – 73 percent; and Morocco – 218 percent. (Source: United Nations World Tourism Organization, World Trade Barometer, March 2012)
On January 19, 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13597, announcing new Administration initiatives to increase travel and tourism to and within the United States. On May 10, 2012, The White House released the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which is the product of a Government-wide effort led by the Departments of Commerce and Interior to outline a long-term strategy for increasing both domestic and international tourism in the United States. Earlier in 2010, the US Travel Promotion Act established the nonprofit Corporation for Travel Promotion (now doing business as Brand USA) to promote international travel and tourism to the United States.
Brand USA has launched its first marketing campaign to promote the United States in international markets during the International PowWow in Los Angeles. On April 23, the USA tourism official website and logo was unveiled. Also, Brand USA released an “informal anthem” about the US travel – “Land of Dreams” by Rosanne Cash:
The Commercial Service (CS) of U.S. Department of Commerce has specialists in its offices in the United States and around the world, including in Kyiv, to help U.S. destination management organizations and tour operators understand global markets and attract more travelers to the United States. CS also helps recruit and support travel to U.S. destinations at international travel and tourism trade shows, and helps promote awareness of U.S. travel destinations in foreign media.
What is the Ukraine’s position in the US travel market?
Ukraine represents an intriguing market for the U.S. travel industry with a population over 45 million and a developing middle class. The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) of the U.S. Department of Commerce reports impressive steady growth in the Ukrainian arrivals to the United States, which started in 2003 with 15,200 annual visitors, having reached more than 47,400 visitors in 2011.
Several factors influence this upward trend in US bound travel. An active middle class has been developing in Kyiv and the other major cities of Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, and Lviv. There is also a rapidly growing cadre of repeat visitors who appreciate a simplified visa renewal procedure. There are still many travelers who have yet to visit the United States for the first time. In addition, the depreciated U.S. dollar makes the United States a more affordable destination. Industry leaders, interviewed by CS Kyiv, estimate that US bound travel will continue to grow at 10-15% annually over the next four years at least.
UKRAINIAN ARRIVALS TO USA, 2003-2012
(Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI)
While the growth trend is impressive, the share of U.S. destinations is still very insignificant in the Ukrainian outbound travel market – the 47,400 Ukrainian arrivals to the United States in 2011 represent less than .24% of the 19.8 million international trips made by Ukrainians. Although, it should be admitted that the lion’s share of the Ukrainian border crossings were private and commercial trips to neighboring countries: Russia, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, and Belarus. Ukrainian arrivals represent an even smaller fraction (.08%) of the total number of the 62 million international arrivals to the United States in 2011. So, the potential for further growth is obvious.
It is with the purpose of increasing promotion of US destinations in Ukraine that CS Kyiv has recently approached Ukrainian travel industry leaders with an initiative to create a VisitUSA Committee (VUSA) in Ukraine. The working group should meet to discuss organizational issues in June with a goal to have a VUSA Committee fully functional in Ukraine by October 2012.
In his April 23 video address to the participants of the International PowWow in Los Angeles, President Obama said, “I want America to be the top tourist destination in the world. That’s why earlier this year we joined with business leaders to find better ways to market our tourist destinations and to make sure foreign visitors get the information they need. …I promise to do my part by making it safer and simpler for people to visit, and together we can tell the world that America is open for business.”