Sincerely, BLLA

The Industry Will Come Back Better Than Ever

Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association Speaks to the Boutique Community In a captivating keynote speech at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit ...

Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association Speaks to the Boutique Community

In a captivating keynote speech at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit by BLLA, Roger Dow, President & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, delivered an update on the current state of the travel industry. Although matters seem bleak right now, he reassured that the industry will make a full recovery and will even surpass its success seen in recent years.  

Roger Dow speaks to boutique hotels around the world at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit by BLLA

To begin, Dow laid out the following statistics for the audience: 

  • In 2019, 80 million people travelled internationally from the U.S., making travel the number one services export for America. 
  • The hotel industry provides 8 million jobs and contributes $660 billion to GDP. 
  • The hotel industry was the fastest growing segment for 3 years in a row. Between 2018 and 2019, it grew 10.6%, much faster than any other segment. 

Dow pointed out that everything begins with a trip to a location, whether that be to search for a new home, to visit different campuses during a college search, or to relocate a business. Since all of these activities and more are based in travel, Dow explained, “As goes the travel industry goes the U.S. economy.” 

The travel industry is down 45% in revenue, which equates to $1.2 trillion, Dow reported. This makes the current downturn 9-10 times worse than the effects of 9/11 on the economy. Dow further explained that 40% of all those who are unemployed came from travel industry, so nine out of ten workers who were in the hotel industry were laid off or furloughed. Four out of ten are still out of work. 

Dow disclosed some specific measures the travel industry is doing now to boost recovery. The U.S. Travel Association is working closely with the Economic Development Administration to set aside promotional dollars for travel destinations to showcase health and safety guidelines. Emergency funding for airports has also been put in place. 

The U.S. Travel Association has also started the “Let’s Go There” campaign, in which 75 companies have united to inspire Americans to start travelling again. Dow even hired a happiness expert, Michelle Gielan, who reported that people are 95% happier when they are wither thinking about or actually planning a trip. Drawing upon this joy resulted in the tagline of the campaign, “When it’s time for you, we’ll be ready.”

Generally, Dow noted, it takes 2-3 years to recover after a disaster, so this puts the recovery time for the pandemic at 2024. He provided the hopeful news that if the industry can return to pre-pandemic travel levels 6 months sooner than the natural cycle, it would provide $71 billion to travel industry, $163 billion to overall economy, and 800,000 more jobs. 

With this in mind, Dow reported, “56% of Americans agree that the U.S. economy is not going to come back until the travel industry comes back, and that’s very important that we have the sentiment of America behind us.” However, one thing is for certain: Americans are not going to travel until they feel safe enough to do so. Dow encouraged the audience of industry authorities to travel themselves, and to share their experiences with their friends so that they, too, will feel more comfortable taking a trip or staying at a hotel. 

Things are already starting to look up for the industry. One of Dow’s graphs displayed travel rates as compared to 2019; a notable data point showed that road trips taken over Labor Day were only down 5.1% compared to last year. In another breakdown of hotel types and occupancy rates, small hotels have the largest occupancy rates at 50%. Dow believes this is because people feel safer at small properties. He urged the audience to showcase safety protocols on websites, explain them to guests when they call over the phone, and make the protocols apparent on property. Doing so will spread confidence, which will encourage word-of-mouth marketing, something that has always aided in the progression of the travel industry. 

In a positive takeaway for the audience, Dow reflected, “After September 11, people said no one would get on an international flight; international travel is doomed. Yet it was followed by some of the greatest years of growth of international travel.” The same happened after the 2009 recession: people speculated that 30% of hotels would go bankrupt, but the 10 years that followed were the greatest years of the U.S. economy. Although this year has brought unimaginable hardships for the travel industry, there is hope that when it does make a full recovery, the industry will come back better than ever. 

Active BLLA Members can watch the session in the portal here

Article written by Drew Stephenson of BLLA

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