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Travel industry taps ex-Trump campaign aide Stephen Moore to influence president who trusts familiar faces

Conservative economist Stephen Moore has been tapped by a coalition of industry groups to encourage President Trump, whose family fortune relies in part on hotel revenue, to support efforts to revive sagging international tourism to the U.S.

Moore advised Trump during the 2016 campaign where he worked closely with Larry Kudlow, now the chief White House economic adviser. The selection of Moore reflects a calculation that with a president whose decision-making style is based on conversations with acquaintances and confidants and that often bypasses conventional government processes, the personal touch is key. Travel and business advocacy organizations hope to leverage Moore to attract Trump’s attention and spur action on legislation and regulatory reform.

“Stephen has a lot of influence,” said Jonathan Grella, spokesman for the U.S. Travel Association, a coalition leader. “He was a natural choice.”

Moore is a well-known figure in Washington, and the coalition hired him to publicize their issues in a way that might raise awareness with the hotelier in the Oval Office, one with a name-brand property on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks southeast of the White House. Grella explained that Trump’s unconventional approach to policy making pushed the travel industry to re-think its lobbying strategy.

“Rather than continuing to make the case the way we’re accustomed, we thought we’d translate it into a dialect that would be more appealing to those in power,” Grella said.

In part, that meant hiring Moore, who is a regular on cable television, which is among Trump’s favorite mediums.

Moore’s first contribution was to produce a white paper promoting the benefits of international tourism to the U.S. economy, including the assertion that it lowers Washington’s trade deficit with foreign countries, an economic metric that Trump cares deeply about. Moore’s white paper didn’t focus on the trade deficit by accident. He said urging more international tourism to the U.S. would fit hand-and-glove with Trump’s practice of using his megaphone to promote domestically manufactured goods for export.

“He does that all that all the time in terms of people buying products, but doesn’t say it in terms of foreigners coming here and spending money in the U.S.,” Moore said.

Regarding his relationships at the White House and his role in advocating for the travel industry, Moore emphasized that he is not a lobbyist. The one-time president of the Club for Growth said that he gets multiple requests per week to engage the White House on some issue or another, and always turns them down.

“I never lobby Larry on anything,” Moore said. “I don’t even call Larry much anymore because it’s not good for him, or me. So even though I get asked a lot, I don’t do it, I steer very clear of it. My white papers will speak for themselves. I’m sure he’ll see them.”

The “Visit U.S.” coalition is being spearheaded by the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel Lodging Association, but includes about 15 business groups, among them stalwarts like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the International Restaurant Association, and the American Gaming Association.

The industry is worried because, across the globe, people are traveling more than ever, just not to the U.S., a development that began toward the end of President Barack Obama’s tenure, according to travel officials.

They cite a 1.6 percentage point reduction in the U.S. share of the international travel market from 2015 to 2017, or a drop from 13.8 percent to 12.2 percent during that period. Had the U.S. simply maintained its 2015 market share, it would have resulted in an influx of $30.7 billion and 96,000 jobs, the industry says.

“We need to vie for travelers with the global super heavyweights,” Grella said.