Business

'Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays'

Coalition aims to reverse drop in international visitors

Los Angeles Times/TNS

Travelers line up at the Air China counter at Los Angeles International Airport in this 2016 photo. A coalition has been formed among various industries to draw more foreign visitors to the United States.
Los Angeles Times/TNS Travelers line up at the Air China counter at Los Angeles International Airport in this 2016 photo. A coalition has been formed among various industries to draw more foreign visitors to the United States.

President Donald Trump’s statement about immigrants aren’t solely responsible for the drop in international travel to the United States, 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 United States 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 this country.

“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, CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the trade group for the country’s hotels.

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

The group attributes the decline in international visitors to a strong U.S. dollar, which makes vacationing in here more expensive for foreign visitors, plus economic calamities in countries that send tourists to the United States, such as Brazil.

The proliferation of low-cost airlines in Europe also has drawn visitors away from the United States, the group said.

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But Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, said of Trump’s harsh statements about immigrants: “His rhetoric is not helpful.”

The United States is second to France as the top destination for foreign visitors. But visitation data trends suggest Spain may soon overtake the United States for the No. 2 spot.

In 2015, the United States saw 13.6 percent of all the world’s long-haul visitors. That percentage dropped to 11.9 percent by last year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

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 United States 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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