NEW YORK - As the 38th Annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference got under way at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, delivered the keynote address, calling on the hospitality industry to advocate for smart public policies in the face of disruptive forces in the travel industry today. These disruptors include technology, rising global travel concerns and "troubling" political rhetoric.
A rhetoric that Tisch described as “fear-filled” has begun to cloud the national political discourse, the keynote speaker warned. “It was not long ago that we saw that same mentality as a reaction to 9/11. But we learned that pulling back from the rest of the world is not an option. Adopting a Fortress America mentality did us much more harm than good.”
In the 10 years following the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, the U.S. lost nearly 70 million visitors to global competitors, costing the nation's economy $500 billion in traveler spending and more than 440,000 American jobs.
According to Tisch, trusted traveler programs such as the Visa Waiver Program have played an integral role in bringing millions of international travelers to the U.S. while strengthening national security. "The word 'waiver' sounds like lax security," he acknowledged. "That could not be further from the truth. It's an effective program with a terrible name."
Tisch suggested a name change to The Secure Travel Partnership. “That name reflects the true value of the program: the fact that it raises the international standard for passports and other identification, fosters cooperation among international law enforcement agencies, and is a vital link in the chain to make America more secure,” Tisch said.
Tisch also stressed the economic benefits trusted traveler programs continue to generate for the U.S. economy. “In the four years after South Korea joined the Visa Waiver Program, visits to the U.S. increased by more than 60 percent and have continued to rise ever since. Spending by South Korean visitors jumped by 52 percent.”
The balancing act between reliable security and and increased visitor numbers requires tough choices, Tisch said. “We believe that America can be both welcoming and secure. We can advance the nation’s interests while extending hospitality." Letting outside forces determine the industry's future while insiders stand quietly by, he added, is not an option.
He also noted that global epidemics such as the Zika virus continue to pose threats to both travelers and the hospitality industry. Citing growing international media coverage and the patchwork of state responses to the last Ebola outbreak, Tisch stressed the need for a coordinated industry response and stronger connections with public health experts. “To push back and separate fact from fiction, we need a coordinated industry effort to respond thoughtfully and effectively to global health risks without promoting undue alarm,” he said.
Tisch emphasized that the travel industry is most effective when it is united. “Together, we have a strong voice. If we stay united; we can seize new opportunities for growth, build our power and influence, and create an even more thriving, more prosperous industry.”
A New Honor
Just before Tisch gave his address, attendees learned that the NYU School of Professional Studies' center of hospitality will be renamed the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. The name keeps the center in the family, however: The Tisch clan has been involved in the hospitality business for years. Jonathan Tisch's father, Preston Robert Tisch, started the Loews Corporation, which is now parent company of Loews Hotels. Jonathan Tisch has been the chairman of Loews Hotels & Resorts for the past two decades, and was CEO of the company until four years ago.
"To have the school named after me reflects what we have tried to create at Loews Hotels and as an industry," Tisch said.
Source: USA Today
Photo courtesy of NYU Tisch Center