As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, the U.S. government is doubling down on its commitment to create more jobs for Americans by growing international and domestic travel and tourism that powers our economy.
Last year, 62 million international tourists visited the United States and pumped a record $153 billion into local economies, helping to support the 7.6 million jobs in our travel and tourism industry. These numbers make tourism America’s number one service export.
That’s why the White House released a new National Travel and Tourism Strategy  today, charting a new course toward making America a more attractive and accessible destination than ever before. The Strategy sets a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors by 2021, which is expected to generate $250 billion annually in visitor spending by 2012. The strategy also encourages more Americans to travel within the United States.
America is the land of extraordinary natural wonders – from the Grand Canyon to the Florida Keys; from Yellowstone to Yosemite. America is where we do big things, and as a result, we have incredible landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building; the Hoover Dam and the Gateway Arch. This is the land of iconic cities and all their sights – from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to the Space Needle in Seattle to the skyline of Chicago. From the Mall of America to Walt Disney World, we have it all right here.
At President Obama’s direction in January, we co-chaired an interagency task force to develop the strategy – identifying concrete steps in five key areas designed to promote these destinations and make America as number one tourism destination in the world:
1) Federal agencies will expand efforts to promote a welcoming message for international visitors, coordinating with Brand USA  to encourage international travel to America.
2) Federal agencies will enable more efficient and secure travel to and within the United States, and improve the visa application process, which has already been dramatically enhanced under the leadership of Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano.
3) We will foster greater cooperation with the private sector to provide a world-class U.S. travel experience. This includes leveraging technology in to help non-English speaking visitors and do more to help small businesses tap into this expanding market opportunity.
4) Through the Tourism Policy Council, we will work more closely with public and private partners to coordinate federal policies. Plus, the Commerce Department will establish a national travel and tourism office to provide leadership within the federal government.
5) We will work with both industry and academic researchers to collect and analyze the best data on travel and tourism to help make smart, strategic decisions that will maximize America’s growth and leadership in this industry.
Tourism is our number one services export, and holds an incredible potential to create American jobs. As our nation’s economy continues to gain strength, we’re proud of this National Strategy and the promise it holds of being an economic engine for the country.
We look forward to working with our partners across government and industry to turn this strategy into action.