Can Entertainment and Tourism Industries Revive U.S. Economy?

Disney CEO Robert A. Iger thinks by nurturing tourism and entertainment industries the lost economic glory can be restored to some extent

December 17 2009 by Fayazuddin A. Shirazi


 

For Bob Iger CEO of Walt Disney, one of the largest media and entertainment conglomerate in the world, revival of the U.S economy can be achieved by creating hordes of job avenues, which he thinks is possible by bolstering entertainment and tourism industries.

Iger believes entertainment and tourism are two of the most promising areas for job creation in the United States. “They are both vital to the country’s economic well-being, not only for the jobs they create, but the spending they generate and the tax money they bring,” he says.

According to him an estimated 500,000 jobs have been lost in the two important industries, due to reasons that have nothing to do with the current economic situation. Stringent travel related regulations, besides free flourishing of piracy content have led to the downfall of the two industries, he says.

Commenting in an article with the Huffington Post, Iger who participated in President Obama’s job summit recently, discussed measures that could help sustain and increase employment growth in critical industries such as entertainment and tourism.

He is of the opinion that the U.S government should take two fold measures for fixing the unemployment issue predominantly in the entertainment and tourism sectors. Firstly, it should protect the intellectual properties of online media companies and secondly it should help create a friendly and congenial environment for foreign visitors to frequent U.S.

“Curbing piracy and making it easier to visit our country are straightforward and immediate ways to spur long-term job growth. They will help us maintain our national competitiveness. And they do so at no significant cost to the taxpayer,” Iger noted in his article.

Interestingly, Senator Mark Begich, (Dem-Alaska) also discussed ways to bolster the ailing U.S. economy. He also is of the opinion that tourism is one of America’s greatest renewable resources. “The travel and tourism industry generates $1.7 trillion annually for the U.S. economy, and employs more than 17 million people,” Begich wrote in his Op-Ed piece with The Alaska Journal.

“I’m bullish on the travel industry and believe there’s enormous potential to help grow our national economy through the visitor industry,” the Senator said.

Iger points out there’s an urgent need to curb piracy by fostering an environment where increased levels of content could be brought to an even increasing number of consumers through legitimate channels.

“Millions of Americans create, market and distribute content for a living. If we don’t address the piracy threat with vigor, cohesiveness, and immediacy, we can’t create new jobs. In fact, we’ll lose even more,” Iger pointed out.

Additionally, one more issue that needs to be fixed is the substantial decline in the number of people visiting U.S., which he says, can be attributed to hostile visa rules in U.S.

He wants the government to implement a simple, secure, user-friendly visa process that could also guarantee inland security requirements of the country. “We need to encourage and extend warm welcome to visitors at our airports,” he says.

Iger believes such outreach could be funded through a small fee collected from overseas visitors, combined with matching funds from the travel industry, costing taxpayers almost nothing.

Figures from U.S. Department of Commerce also show a decline in the number of foreigners visiting U.S. According to estimates from ITA (International Trade Administration), as against 51.23 million visitors in 2000, only 51.06 million people visited U.S in 2006. While in the consecutive years although the number grew to some extent, it mostly remained marginal, experts point out.

Commenting on the decline of foreigners visiting U.S., since 9/11, Sen. Begich also puts the blame on the stringent visa rules prevalent in the country. He says “it has affected job creation and visitor spending prospects by a great measure in U.S.”

Although recent initiatives such as the Travel Promotion Act, helps bring increased number of overseas travelers to U.S; the Congress still needs to do a lot more for addressing travel related concerns, feels Begich.

“Congress should re-examine outdated travel bans. If travel restrictions were further loosened, the U.S. economy would benefit from increased demand for air and cruise travel. It is clear our current policy costs the American travel industry jobs and money. Expand economic output and create American jobs,” Bagich reasoned in his article.

Quoting figures from U.S. Travel Association, Iger says the decline in foreign visitors has led to a loss of 245,000 jobs, while the Motion Picture Association of America reckons that piracy has cost another 375,000.

Iger reasons while President Obama’s jobs summit effectively focused on several issues for rebuilding America, he thinks, many of these require legislative actions and in many cases, increased federal spending.

However, he says, reviving tourism and entertainment industries by adopting the “proposed initiatives don’t call either for an increased government spending or additional legislation, but mere initiation of few common sense steps.”