Hello everyone! It’s great to be here with the members from the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
Thank you, Kurt, for that kind introduction and for your remarkable leadership.
I’d like to welcome our newest members to the Board – I’m very excited to have you with us and looking forward to your participation.
We also have a new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism with us here today, Sara Morgenthau – welcome.
I also want to thank the Board for the fantastic recommendations you’ve provided to date – they’ve played an important role in the steps our Administration has taken so far to get the travel and tourism industry back on its feet.
To start, as Jeff just discussed, we all know the best way to get international and business travel back up and running is to ensure every American who can gets a vaccine.
President Biden has made clear that any decisions about fully reopening international travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts.
Last week, President Biden unveiled new vaccination and testing requirements for workplaces with more than 100 employees. Many of your companies will be subject to this requirement.
There have been some companies within your industry who have gone above and beyond the President’s guidelines, mandating vaccinations for all their employees.
They’ve seen significant increases in their vaccination rates because of their company policies, and we applaud those decisions.
We encourage you all to consider doing the same. It’s the responsible thing to do for your customers, your employees and the health of your industry.
Additionally, we encourage you to think creatively about how to get your customers vaccinated as well.
Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Commerce has worked extensively with the cruise industry, the CDC, and members of Congress to open cruising with the right safety protections − and I’m proud that cruise ships are finally sailing from U.S. ports again.
We’re also coordinating closely with government partners to develop a risk-based, data-driven approach to COVID restrictions for international travel that protects public health.
I’m in constant contact with executives from major U.S. air carriers and advocacy groups to make sure their voice is represented in senior White House meetings.
Fortunately, I was able to help open the door to international students for summer work travel visas and academic visas for this fall semester.
And we’re very supportive of the Custom and Border Protection’s work with airlines to accelerate biometric technology for entry and exit at airports, making travel more seamless for customers.
I also want you to know that your recommendations have been directly informing our policies.
Based on your input:
The Administration announced a $3.2 billion plan in June to research new COVID-19 therapeutic drugs.
Our new grant program of $750 million for communities affected by losses in the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sector, provides flexible spending options and two grant programs: noncompetitive state tourism grants and competitive tourism grants.
We expect the state tourism grant funding to start flowing by Halloween, and it can be used for tourism marketing and promotion − which is something I know the Board requested.
I’m also convening a Tourism Policy Council meeting in the fall to develop a National Travel and Tourism strategy for resiliency and growth – I’m excited for your input there.
And that’s just a few examples.
I’m tremendously proud of my team for ensuring that money already in the Travel Promotion Fund stays available for Brand USA.
On top of that, we’re working with Senator Klobuchar and Senator Blunt to secure additional funding for Brand USA so America remains a premier travel destination.
Now, I want to note that despite our successes together, we haven’t yet addressed the impact of climate change on the travel and tourism economy.
Given the climate disasters we’ve witnessed during the past month alone – from Hurricane Ida to wildfires in California − our conversations must address climate change moving forward.
Other challenges may arise as COVID cases fluctuate globally, but I’m confident that if we work together, better days are ahead for the industry.
So please stay in touch with us at the Commerce Department.
We’re here to support you every step of the way.
I look forward to engaging closely with you today and in the weeks ahead.