Exclusive Interview: Isabel Hill – Director – National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) – US Department of Commerce.
The National Travel and Tourism Office serves as the point of contact for travel and tourism for the US government. We asked Isabel Hill to tell us a little more about her role.
Our main goal is to increase travel and tourism to the United States, and ensure our companies are not at a disadvantage as they conduct business in other markets. I lead the team that produces the national statistics for travel and tourism, as well as a team that supports policies for growth. We work to ensure that the administration has private sector input to inform policy through our Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. We also convene the Tourism Policy Council, which is chaired by the Secretary of Commerce. This council is comprised of 12 federal agencies that coordinate policies and programs across the federal government to support a positive business climate for growth.
Internationally, what are your responsibilities in bilateral discussions with, for instance, China, OECD or APEC?
Our engagement with other countries is an important function of the NTTO. The global growth of travel and tourism creates many opportunities for increased trade. It also creates some challenges. Issues such as safety and security affect this sector globally. Because this is not a problem we can solve alone countries must work together, share information, and advance new technological solutions. Multilateral organizations have a key role to play in addressing these challenges. With regards to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has taken a leadership role in these organizations to advance the global travel and tourism sector and address issues of common concern, including safety and security, travel facilitation, and emergency preparedness and response. I am pleased that we have also had productive engagements on these issues with the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council and learned from these organizations about the competitive landscape and best practices in tourism administration.
OUR COMPETITIVENESS DEPENDS ON THE STRENGTH OF OUR PRIVATE SECTOR AND IN THE BREADTH, DIVERSITY, AND THE QUALITY OF OUR DESTINATIONS AND ATTRACTIONS.
What are America’s key tools in fostering the competitiveness of the US travel and tourism industries?
Our competitiveness depends on the strength of our private sector and in the breadth, diversity, and the quality of our destinations and attractions. The United States remains one of the most spectacular destinations in the world. Our position as the global leader in travel receipts from international travelers is testimony to that fact. Yet in many ways, international visitors have only scratched the surface of the experiences the United States has to offer. We work with large and small businesses to continue to advance our competitive position. We have developed and continually revise our National Travel and Tourism Strategy in collaboration with the private sector. The collaboration between the US private sector and the federal government is the strongest tool we have and has been recognized as a global best practice.
Can you describe the importance and role of Visit USA Committees in Europe and around the world within the international strategy of the National Travel and Tourism Office?
Around the world, we work with suppliers – including hotels, airlines, destinations, and distributors – who have a common interest in increasing travel to the United States. Their success is our success. In most of our key markets, these suppliers have organized into Visit USA Committees to share information and leverage resources. We are extremely supportive of their efforts. The Department of Commerce’s US and Foreign Commercial Service work in market with Visit USA Committees to support their efforts.
How has US inbound tourism evolved since the beginning of 2017, how do you think it will continue to evolve for the rest of 2017, and how do you see it developing in the years to come?
International visitors spent nearly US$146.3bn on travel and tourism-related goods and services year-to-date (January through July 2017). This is an increase of 3% when compared to 2016, based on the Department of Commerce’s preliminary data. The growth of visitor spending in the United States during 2017 reverses the drop in 2016, which began in April 2016 and continued through the end of the year. The relative strength of the dollar and the strength and weaknesses of US source markets will continue to play a role.
THE COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE US PRIVATE SECTOR AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS THE STRONGEST TOOL WE HAVE AND HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED AS A GLOBAL BEST PRACTICE.
What is your message to tourism professionals?
One of the best returns on investments comes from expanding your knowledge on the diversity of extraordinary destinations and experiences in the United States. There are so many reasons to visit the United States again and again. From the Fall colors of New England, to the music and heritage of the American South, to the wide-open expanses of the West and scenic drives on the California coastline, there is a world of discovery. Our Native American heritage can also be seen across all of these regions. Of course, our National Parks need no introduction – but there are many that remain undiscovered gems. I would also advise that they keep up with the progress we are making in bringing Florida, Texas, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico back on line. It is so often the case that recovery moves faster than perception, and there may be real opportunities for your customers over the next several months.
Photo : Isabel Hill Director, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) – US Department of Commerce