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Pritzker Promises U.S. Push to Boost Foreign Tourism

Pritzker Promises U.S. Push to Boost Foreign Tourism 
By Doug Palmer, POLITICO
Published 3/6/14
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain, on Friday touted White House efforts to attract more tourists to the United States. 
“I was pleased that White House chief of staff Denis McDonough singled out this industry as a second-term priority when he stopped by the Commerce Department’s board meeting last month,” Pritzker said in a speech to the U.S. Travel Association, whose members include Hyatt. 
“I hope that signals to you what a priority your industry is for President [Barack] Obama and the entire administration. Travel and tourism is a priority not only because it is a major driver of economic recovery but also because the partnership between government and industry — all of you — is so fruitful,” she said. 
Pritzker was Obama’s 2008 campaign finance chairwoman and co-chair of his 2012 campaign. She was formerly on the board of directors for Hyatt, the hotel chain co-founded by her father and now run by her cousin. She has been Commerce secretary since June of last year. 
“Believe me, I know the importance of first impressions in the hospitality business,” she said. “We have to do better, and we are going to need your continued help in the president’s second term. Your voices are being heard loud and clear.” 
Obama signed an executive order in January 2012 to boost international travel to the United States. 
That led to the creation of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which set a goal of attracting 100 million visitors to the United States by 2021, up from an estimated record 69 million in 2013. 
Foreign visitors spent a record $180.7 billion on U.S. travel-related goods and services last year. 
In her speech, Pritzker outlined several steps the administration is taking to increase foreign visitors, including expanding the visa waiver program to more countries and making it easier to get visas to travel to the United States from countries where they are still required. 
“Second, we want to improve the experience of travelers at U.S. ports of entry,” Pritzker said. “I know this is a major issue for you, and I share your sense of urgency. I recently met with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Jeh Johnson to discuss it. Senior leaders from our agencies are exploring how to best make progress in this area given security and budgetary constraints. We expect to have meaningful announcements soon.” 
The administration also plans to increase its support for the Brand USA program to help sell the United States as a tourist destination and “free up data about federal tourist sites such as national parks” to allow entrepreneurs and tour operators to create better itineraries, apps and other products, she said. 

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