Industry Research

U.S. Travel Group Serves As Client Source For Operators

Martin Romjue
Posted on August 17, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While business travel remains a core market for the chauffeured transportation industry, the much larger leisure segment of travel brings much profit potential for operators as well.

One resource that can help operators gain business is the U.S. Travel Association (U.S. Travel), which promotes growth in the business and leisure travel markets. As statistics show, national leisure travel revenues more than double those of business travel. That adds up to a lot of international visitors, especially from leading foreign source China, as well as domestic vacations, staycations and outings. In fact, domestic leisure travel now comprises about 70% of all travel activity in the U.S.

Focus: USA
In trying to drum up more business or leisure travel, operators can plug into the multiple efforts and resources of U.S. Travel, now in its 74th year. The group advocates and lobbies on behalf of its members. While the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) may get more attention in the limousine industry because of its emphasis on business travel worldwide, U.S. Travel works across a broader spectrum of the travel industry to generate more business into and within the United States only. The umbrella group spans 18 different vertical segments of the travel industry and partners with about 100 travel-related associations. (GBTA is not a formal member of U.S. Travel).

“While we run like a business, we behave like a start-up,” says Gary Oster, U.S. Travel’s executive vice president of member services and managing director of Project: Time Off, a campaign to get more Americans to use their vast unused vacation days. “We do whatever we can to grow the pie. We know the competition within the industry is healthy, so our goal is to make sure that pie is always growing.”

During the last four years, international inbound travel has increased by 20 million visitors. “We are saying the doors are open, please come to America,” Oster says. U.S. Travel works with the Presidential Administration and the Departments of Interior and Commerce to develop a national tour and travel strategy.

“Travel is good from an economic impact point of view,” he says. “It just makes horizons broader. When more visitors come to the U.S. and see how great our country is with its friendly people, they’ll go back home and say America is not like what we first heard. We think travel is a great barrier remover, and a great brain changer.”

About U.S. Travel Association
Founded: 1941
Location: Washington, D.C.
Purpose: Promote business activity into and within U.S. for 18 separate travel industry segments
Activities: Lobbying, education, advocacy, research, destination marketing, and industry marketplace
Members: 1,300
Member types: Travel service providers, destinations, allied/affiliate, travel trade groups
Annual trade show: IPW international marketplace (
Destination marketing organization: Brand USA (
Research organization: Project Time Off (
Employees: 71
CEO: Roger Dow
Dues: 79% of amount deductible as business expense
E-mail contact: [email protected]; [email protected]
Phone: (202) 408-8422

Limo Industry Benefits

U.S. Travel’s efforts to increase travel directly benefit the chauffeured transportation and charter motorcoach industries, especially when spurring more meetings and convention business, Oster says. “We’re constantly finding opportunities that encourage people to travel. We automatically support the ground transportation sector because of the increased business we create. The chauffeured and charter providers get a big list of business because of U.S. Travel.”

When asked about transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Oster replied that U.S. Travel does not have an official position on them. But Oster is quick to point out that he, fellow executives and board members routinely use traditional chauffeured transportation when traveling for business. He even named one of his preferred vendors, a limousine company based in the Orlando, Fla.-region.

“A lot of times it’s better to use a private car,” Oster says. “If I want to prepare for a meeting in the car, it’s good to have someone else focusing on the driving. I’ll pay for that any day. We do it a lot at U.S. Travel. We are believers.”

Travel Boosters
Among the programs and activities that can benefit operators:

  • The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 — advanced by U.S. Travel, approved by Congress and signed by President Obama — created a national market organization called Brand USA that deploys a $200 million marketing budget promoting the U.S. to travelers worldwide. Congress must authorize the public-private enterprise every five years.
  • U.S. Travel works to remove or streamline entry barriers, such as the visa process. In one example, the group helped get the process for visitors from China and Brazil, two of the fastest growing sources of foreign visitors to the U.S., whittled down from 150-180 days to five to six days, Oster says.
  • U.S. Travel helped persuade the Department of Customs and Borders to add another 2,500 officers at Customs points to receive visitors faster. “Ground transportation is the next most important experience for an international visitor after Customs,” Oster says. “Many are bedraggled after waiting two to four hours after flying 12-14 hours. It’s important for us to have travelers’ voice and experience in mind.”

U.S. Travel Association executive Gary Oster draws a direct connection among expansion of travel into and within the U.S., the advantages of Americans taking more time off, and the virtues of chauffeured and chartered transportation.

U.S. Travel Association executive Gary Oster draws a direct connection among expansion of travel into and within the U.S., the advantages of Americans taking more time off, and the virtues of chauffeured and chartered transportation.

  • The group formed a coalition with 60 major organizations in 2009 called Meetings Mean Business that promotes face-to-face business meetings as the best way for businesses and government agencies to communicate and strategize. The coalition was developed to tone down anti-business travel statements from the Obama Administration during the Great Recession. “We advocate for a more sensible business-like approach to government travel,” he says. “Travel makes government smarter, sharper, and more well-informed. It is a good use of funds. MMB helped tone down the rhetoric and got a reversal from the White House on discouraging talk about meetings. It was hurting the industry and jobs.”
  • U.S. Travel works with major airports to improve the traveler experience going in and out of airports. It has created the Gateway Airport Council that represents 18 airports that get high international travel volume.
  • Project Time-Off ( Oster spearheads a national campaign to get more American workers to take vacation time off. Research shows American workers collectively have 429 million days of unused time worth about $225 billion. In 2013, American workers permanently lost 169 million days of earned PTO — which equates to $52.4 billion in forfeited benefits. “If Americans used time off, there would be $160 billion of increased domestic leisure travel,” Oster says. “That would mean we’d have to hire another 1.2 million Americans to produce service and product for travelers.” The campaign has plenty of statistics and promotional-ready research available operators could use in local advertising campaigns to encourage use of chauffeured vehicles for staycations and leisure outings.

In the last 15 years, the average American has used 16 days of PTO per year, versus 20.3 in 2000. “Everyone agrees vacation is good for you,” Oster says. “A lack of communication between American organizations and employees prevents people from taking time off. Senior management should model and encourage it, and it would be an economic boom to the U.S.”

About: IPW Marketplace
IPW is the travel industry’s premier international marketplace and the largest generator of travel to the U.S. It is not a typical trade show. In three days of intensive pre-scheduled business appointments, more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations and businesses from every region of the U.S. (representing all industry category components), and more than 1,300 international and domestic buyers from over 70 countries conduct business negotiations that result in more than $4.7 billion in future U.S. travel. At IPW, buyers and sellers are able to conduct business that would otherwise be generated only through an exhaustive number of around-the-world trips. The 2015 IPW in Orlando drew 6,500 delegates who made 100,000 appointments. IPW 2016 will be held Saturday, June 18 to Wednesday, June 22, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Travel Industry Trends

$2.1 trillion: Economic output generated by domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred another $1.2 trillion in other industries).

15 million: Jobs supported by travel spend (includes eight million in the travel industry and seven million in other industries).

1 out of 9: U.S. jobs that depend on travel and tourism.

No. 7: Where travel ranks in employment compared to other major private
industry sectors.

84%: Percentage of travel companies considered small businesses (2012).

73.9 million: Number of international arrivals in the U.S. in 2013, including 33.6 million from overseas markets.

$4,300: About how much each overseas traveler spends when visiting the U.S.; average stay is 17 nights (2012).

$180.7 billion: How much U.S. travel exports (travel and passenger fare receipts) totaled in 2014

$137 billion: How much U.S. travel imports (travel and passenger fare payments) totaled in 2014

$43.7 billion: Trade surplus in favor of U.S.


  • Direct spending on leisure travel by domestic 
  • and international travelers totaled $644.9 billion in 2014.
  • 78% of domestic trips taken are for leisure purposes.
  • U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion person‑trips* for leisure purposes in 2014.


  • Direct spending on business travel by domestic and international travelers,including expenditures on meetings, events and incentive programs (ME&I), totaled $283 billion in 2014.
  • ME&I travel accounted for $114.2 billion of all business travel spending.
  • U.S. residents logged 452 million person‑trips* for business purposes in 2014, with 36.7% for meetings/events.
  • For every dollar invested in business travel, businesses benefit an average of $9.50 in increased revenue and $2.90 in new profits (2012).

Related Topics: building your clientele, business opportunities, business travel, business trends, client markets, corporate travel, leisure travel, procurement, research and trends, U.S. Travel Association

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