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Palm Beach, FL -- Mayor Mufi Hannemann and mayors from across the nation joined visitor industry leaders today to urge that the next American president make support for the industry a high priority.

“The nation’s arts and tourism activities are an important component of our national economy,” Mayor Hannemann said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ National Action Forum on Air Travel, Tourism and the Arts. “Protecting our nation must remain paramount, but a better balance is needed between homeland security and economic vitality.  Cities are undoubtedly affected by the challenges facing our airline industry. Therefore, it is essential that mayors are at the table offering their ideas and recommendations.”

Mayor Hannemann is Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Standing Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports, and led the effort to include tourism and the arts in the mayors’ 10 Point Action Plan outlining priorities for the next presidential administration.

More than 40 mayors from key cities around the country gathered at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach to discuss the U.S. economy and mounting challenges that are undermining economic growth.  Mayors heard from experts who explained that in 2007, the airline industry generated $172 billion in revenues -- an amount equal to 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.  However, increasing jet fuel prices and worsening flight delays have created a crisis with U.S. air travel in that 12 U.S. airlines have ceased operating since 2007, according to the Air Transport Association.

The ATA also predicts that by the end of 2008, dozens of U.S. airports will have lost all of at least one airline's scheduled service - impacting economic growth in the nation’s metropolitan areas.  In 2008, jet fuel prices reached all-time highs, causing the loss of more than 36,000 jobs and the retirement of approximately 750 aircraft.  Moreover, the decline in overseas travel since 2000 has cost America $150 billion in lost visitor spending and 250,000 American jobs - losses that affect every state and city in the country. 

According to the U.S. Travel Industry Association, 28 percent of travelers avoided at least one trip over the past year due to the problems inherent in today’s commercial aviation process. The same survey found that 78 percent of respondents believe the air travel system is either “broken” or in need of a “moderate correction.”

In response, mayors are urging that existing levels of service be preserved to support economic growth in metropolitan areas.  Mayors are also calling for reforms to the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that TSA uses the most up-to-date technology to provide security for air-travelers, as well as encouraging the airline industry and the federal government to accelerate research and development for alternative fuels.

As a long-term solution to air congestion, mayors are proposing the use of inter-city high speed commuter rail as an alternative to air flights of 500 miles or less. To accomplish this goal, mayors want to integrate air-rail regional planning in the federal transportation bills pending before Congress.

Today’s forum also featured a discussion on the nonprofit arts and culture industry, which generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year.  Mayors believe the national impact of this industry is significant because it supports 5.7 million jobs and generates $29.6 billion in government revenue. As a result, the nation’s mayors are calling for a cabinet-level position on culture and tourism.

Travel and tourism contributes $740 billion in direct expenditures to the national economy each year, and the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166 million in additional economic activity, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

But two million fewer overseas travelers visited the U.S. in 2007 than in 2000. The decline in overseas travel since 9/11 has cost America 46 million visitors, $140 billion in lost visitor spending and $23 billion in lost tax revenue.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is urging Congress to approve the Travel Promotion Act, which they have long supported, a bipartisan measure designed to create jobs and help boost the U.S. economy by encouraging overseas travelers to visit. The Act, which Senator Daniel Inouye co-sponsored, would establish a Corporation for Travel Promotion as a nonprofit entity to promote the U.S. as a premier international travel destination; provide information to people interested in traveling here; and identify and address perceptions in other countries regarding U.S. entry policies.

The version of the Act approved by the House specifies that travel promotion would be financed through private sector contributions and a modest fee on foreign travelers, with no cost to U.S. taxpayers. Nearly every developed nation in the world spends millions of dollars each year to attract visitors.

U.S. Conference of Mayors President Manny Diaz, mayor of Miami, has asked Mayor Hannemann to lead the group’s effort to win Senate approval of the Travel Promotion Act. Mayor Hannemann has been working closely with Travel Business Roundtable President Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, and other industry leaders who strongly support the measure.

“Mayors recognize that arts, culture, travel and tourism are driving forces for America's diplomacy and economy," said Mayor Diaz. “For too long, we have dealt with these issues in a piecemeal fashion and have not addressed the needs of these industries in a comprehensive manner.”

Key recommendations from today’s forum:

·       Create a cabinet level Secretary of Culture and Tourism.

·       Call for a White House Conference on the Arts to expand the dialogue of the importance of the arts.

·       Fully fund National Endowments of Arts and Humanities at $500 million annual  appropriations.

·       Expand the Local Arts Agency Program to directly fund local arts agencies.

·       Ensure arts education as central to a balanced education in our schools.

·       Encourage arts a component of federal economic development and community development programs.

·       Include in federal budget funding for local parks programs.

·       Support Chicago’s 2016 Olympic and Paralympic bid, which Mayors Richard Daley of Chicago and Mufi Hannemann of Honolulu will lead.

·       Pass and implement the Travel Promotion Act.

·       Encourage Congress to expand the Travel VISA Waiver Program to qualified countries and especially in Latin and South America and Asia.

·       Encourage Congress to increase staffing and implement customer training programs for customs and border service and TSA personnel.

·       Expand TSA’s Black Diamond and model airports program to allow foreign visitors to more easily enter the country.

·       Recognizing the No Fly List issue, urge TSA to implement Secure Flight by 2009.

·       Ensure TSA is using the most up-to-date passenger friendly technology.

·       Urge airlines to maintain existing flight levels to cities.

·       With the pending air and surface transportation laws, increase flexibility within current federal transportation programs (air, surface, rail) to encourage a more multimodal/intermodal approach.

·       Require the U.S. Department of Transportation to propose a comprehensive transportation policy that considers increased interconnectivity among transportation modes.

·       As a solution to the increasing aviation congestion, many short-range flights could be replaced by intercity rail and in some cases commuter rail.

·       Substantially increase funding for research and development of alternative fuels to reduce dependence on petroleum-based jet fuel.

·       Urgently modernize the nation’s aviation system by implementing satellite based technology.

·       Urge the airline’s to improve customer service.

·       Increase the Airport Improvement Program and Passenger Facilities Charges in the reauthorization of the FAA.

·       Include the Universal Service in the reauthorization of the FAA. 

The recommendations from today’s meeting will be submitted by Mayor Hannemann and his mayoral colleagues as a national action agenda for tourism and the arts to the next president of the United States and the US Congress. Other action agenda topics that will be submitted by the USCM include Crime, Infrastructure, Poverty, and Environment and Energy. 

At yesterday’s USCM meeting, Mayor Hannemann participated in the Environment and Energy session.  He shared with his colleagues the City's 21st Century Ahupua'a Plan, especially in the areas of alternative energy and the need to build environmentally friendly transportation systems.  He also expressed to former President Bill Clinton, who was one of the resource speakers, the environmental challenges facing Hawaii and the Pacific island nations. As a result of this particular discussion, President Clinton accepted Mayor Hannemann’s invitation to have the Clinton Foundation work with Hawaii and its Pacific island neighbors to reduce its dependence on imported oil. Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, past president of the USCM, and a close Clinton associate, has agreed to work with Mayor Hannemann and the former president on this initiative.

Mayor Hannemann returns to Honolulu tomorrow.



Contact: Bill Brennan, 527-6928

Friday, October 03, 2008

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