Last month, top government officials called a press conference here and promised to be more welcoming to foreign visitors. It appeared to be a feel-good photo-op.
But for the key players in the USA’s $645 billion travel and tourism industry, getting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff into the same room delivering that message was a major triumph.
For the first time, the travel industry had influenced Bush administration policies on border protection, and possibly established for the future that the economic and diplomatic benefits of foreign tourism deserve consideration in the war against terrorism.
And later in the story:
[Marriott CEO J.W. Marriott Jr.] approves of the Rice-Chertoff initiatives: “This is a wonderful step in the right direction. I just hope there’s a significant amount of follow through.”
I also hope there is follow-through, given the strategic importance of many of the ideas introduced at the press conference. Right now the picture is unclear: there’s only passing mention of the Rice-Chertoff initiative in the FY 2007 budget request for DHS, and nothing linked to funding requests. Hopefully additional information will be forthcoming in the coming appropriations hearings. The travel and tourism industries need to keep up the pressure for State and DHS to fund and move forward on these critical activities.