Coalition formed to reverse the drop in international visitors to the U.S.

Coalition formed to reverse the drop in international visitors to the U.S.
Travelers line up at the Air China counter at Los Angeles International Airport. A coalition has been formed among various industries to draw more foreign visitors to the U.S. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump's statement about immigrants aren't solely responsible for the drop in international travel to the U.S. but they're not helping, according to members of a new industry coalition dedicated to promoting international tourism to the country.

The coalition, dubbed Visit U.S., formally launched Tuesday and is aimed at reversing a drop in international visitors to the U.S. since 2015. The group, which includes travel, retail, hotel and gaming industry leaders, says it hopes to work with the Trump administration to send out a message that visitors are welcome in the U.S.


"Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays, fewer meals eaten in our restaurants, fewer goods purchased in our retail stores and fewer visits to our national attractions," said Katherine Lugar, chief executive of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn., the trade group for the country's hotels.

Other members of the coalition include the U.S. Travel Assn., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Assn. and the American Gaming Assn.

U.S. share of global long-haul travel.
U.S. share of global long-haul travel. (U.S. Travel Assn.)

The group attributes the decline in international visitors to a strong U.S. dollar, which makes vacationing in the U.S. more expensive for foreign visitors, plus economic calamities in countries that send tourists to the U.S., such as Brazil. The proliferation of low-cost airlines in Europe has also drawn visitors away from the U.S., the group said.

But Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Assn., said of Trump's harsh statements about immigrants: "His rhetoric is not helpful."

The U.S. is second only to France as the top destination for foreign visitors. But visitation data trends suggest Spain may soon overtake the U.S. for the second spot.

In 2015, the U.S. welcomed 13.6% of all the world's long-haul visitors. That percentage dropped to 11.9% by last year, according to the U.S. Travel Assn. Long-haul visitors spend an average of $4,400 a visit, much more than domestic travelers or tourists from Canada or Mexico, the trade group said.

If the U.S. had maintained its share of the world's long-haul visitors, it would have received 7.4 million more international visitors, collected $32.2 billion in spending and added 100,000 jobs, according to the coalition.

"We are closed to terrorists but we are open for business," Dow said. "That second part has not been heard loudly."

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