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Since 9/11, U.S. leisure travel has rebounded, but business travel lags

August 24, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times staff writer
  • Tourists walk Main Street, U.S. A. in Disneyland, Anaheim.
Tourists walk Main Street, U.S. A. in Disneyland, Anaheim. (Christopher Reynolds )

By many measures, America’s tourists have long logged more miles than this country’s business travelers. But as the nation has grappled with 9/11 and the financial chaos of recent years, the spending gap has widened, a top travel industry official says.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Assn., cited the numbers Wednesday in a report on the lingering impact of the terrorist attacks a decade ago.

Business travel in the U.S. fell 21% between 2000 and 2010, USTA figures show. But through those years, U.S. leisure travel bounced back more strongly. From 2000 to 2010, the USTA  reports, leisure travel grew 17%.

The U.S. Travel Assn. is a trade group dedicated to protecting and promoting the travel industry in Washington, D.C., and to increasing travel to and within the U.S. It also publicizes statistics that give a picture of the travel industry's breadth.

In 2010, USTA figures show direct spending on leisure travel by domestic and international travelers added up to $526 billion. The comparable figure for business travel (including meetings, events and incentive programs) was $233 billion.

Also between 2000 and 2010, Dow said, global long-haul travel grew by 40%, but during the same time, overseas travel to the U.S. rose only 2%. The result: The U.S. market share of global travel trade shriveled from 17% to 12.4%

To improve these numbers, Dow recommended a series of “principles” for federal officials. Some of these ideas may face long odds, given the ongoing battle over federal spending, but the idea may nevertheless cheer many leisure travelers.

Among Dow’s suggestions:

-- Reducing Transportation Security Administration checkpoint delays to 10 minutes or less.

-- Reducing visa wait times (often a thorn in the side of foreigners headed to the U.S.) to 10 days or less.

-- Reducing airport wait times for arriving international passenger to 20 minutes or less.

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