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U.S. tourism expected to grow this year, but at a bit slower pace

Growth in U.S. travel and tourism is expected to slow this year because of "anti-foreign sentiment" and the dollar's strength, according to a new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The sector contributed $1.5 billion (8.1%) to the country's GDP in 2016 at a growth rate of 2.8%, but the council expects that growth to slow to 2.3% in 2017. Its 2017 contribution will largely be aided by outbound expenditure, which the council expects to grow by 5.4% this year.

The WTTC said the strong U.S. dollar will make the country less attractive to visitors pricing-wise, and expects the money spent by international visitors to the U.S. to drop by 0.6%. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's travel ban is also contributing to that dampening growth. The WTTC said that was evidenced in flight search data.

The U.S.'s business and leisure travel sector is No. 1 in the world and represents 20% of the world's travel and tourism GDP contribution, WTTC said. It accounts for 14 million jobs in the U.S., or 9.4% of total employment.

"For the U.S. to continue on this growth path, it is important to address the current forecast drop in inbound travel, and to reverse the negative perceptions created by the proposed travel ban," WTTC president and CEO David Scowsill said in a statement. "After all, 9.4% of American jobs depend on travel and tourism. We urge the administration to recognize the importance of our sector, both to the economy and to American jobs."

Scowsill outlined five areas where the council is looking for support: keeping the country "open for business" by not discriminating among those who wish to travel here, supporting Brand USA through marketing investments; investing in infrastructure like airports and roads, maintaining open skies, and "promoting a sustainable approach towards natural and cultural attractions, which need to be nurtured and protected for the country to remain competitive."

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