Down Time with Roger Dow
President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association
Photo by Rod Millington
My downtown St. Petersburg neighbor Roger Dow is a globetrotter. I love running into him unexpectedly, at an outdoor café on Beach Drive, and listening to him describe his worldwide travels. In fact, he’s my travel hero.
As the CEO and president of the U.S. Travel Association, his Washington, D.C.-based organization represents all segments of travel in America. The industry he leads generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million jobs. U.S. Travel’s mission is to increase travel to, and within, the United States.
This venture builds on other successes during his tenure, including the growth of U.S. Travel’s annual International Pow Wow, known as IPW. The international marketplace generates $4.7 billion in direct bookings to U.S. destinations. Additionally, Dow and U.S. Travel are both leaders of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which provides resources to promote and defend the value of face-to-face business meetings and travel on our economy.
In 2014, Dow launched Project: Time Off, a multifaceted, research-driven initiative aimed at shifting the American culture so that “time off” is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance and economic expansion. Project: Time Off is known as a transformative national campaign to prove the value and necessity of taking vacation.
Americans used to be better at taking time to take off. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. workers burned through 20 days of vacation per year on average, depending on seniority. Currently, it’s about 17 days. Still, more than half of American workers—around 52 percent—aren’t using all the vacation time they do have, according to Project: Time Off, an initiative of The U.S. Travel Association to track and research vacation trends.
Question & Answer
Roger, are you guilty of having not taken vacations during your Marriott days? What can you share with fellow CEOs about the importance of relaxing?
I used to be guilty … after reading our paid time off research on the benefits of vacations to health, family and well-being, I incented our team to take all their vacation and paid folks $500 for using all of it. I made myself do it and had the best and most productive year ever. Now I use all my vacation and regret not doing so for decades . Senior business leaders and human resource professionals overwhelmingly agree that time off boosts employee performance, productivity and creativity while reducing sick time, burnout and turnover. Further, companies that encourage PTO employ more people who are happier with their professional success compared to those companies that discourage it.
Explain your favorite destination and why it never disappoints:
Not to be pandering — it is really St. Petersburg. Wherever we travel, it always feels great to be “home” — we like the vibrancy of the downtown area, the young demographics, multiple restaurants (with more coming), the “walkability” from Old Northeast to downtown, looking out at Tampa Bay, walking or biking along the water, a wide assortment of museums and entertainment. We belong to both the Vinoy Gulf Club and the Don Cesar Beach Club. No matter where we go … nowhere has better beaches. I guess it would be “too much to ask” to have snow skiing nearby? Linda (Dow’s wife) and I enjoy resorts, spas, good restaurants and shopping. Name me a better place in America … or the world. It’s hard to match and it keeps getting better, with a world-class, easy airport close by.
Where do you like to go with your family and why?
As a family, we enjoy Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where we have a home, there is always a “white Christmas.” The past few years, Linda and I have begun enjoying cruises with lots of great ports, good food and you don’t have to unpack and re-pack to see multiple destinations on one trip. I once enjoyed riding horseback outside Cairo to the Sphinx and Pyramids at sunset, I felt like Lawrence of Arabia.
Please provide a few of the current trends that you have uncovered in the travel market:
How many young people and millennials are traveling. They are going everywhere, staying in the best hotels, dining in the top restaurants. They are “experience-oriented.” They view travel as a “right” and not as something you put off.
Dow served in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star and other citations. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University and was honored as a Most Distinguished Alumnus in 2012. In addition, he holds an honorary degree from Johnson and Wales University.
Prior to joining U.S. Travel in 2005, Dow advanced through the ranks at Marriott International in a tenure spanning 34 years, where he rose to senior vice president of global and field sales. He has held seats on the boards of The American Society of Association Executives and the ASAE Foundation, The Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International Foundation, The Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, the Travel Institute, RE/MAX International and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.
Currently, he commutes from Tampa to Washington, D.C. to work. But why not? He says Tampa International Airport is spectacular, and he doesn’t mind at all. He brags that he can leave his house in Old Northeast in St. Pete, catch a 7:00 a.m. flight out of Tampa and be in his D.C. office by 9:30 a.m.
“My wife and I fell in love with the area when we visited during Super Bowl in 2009.” They bought a house here in 2012 and continue to enjoy the St. Pete lifestyle. ♦