- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

International travel to the United States is finally scheduled to climb back to 2000 levels this year.

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) says the industry is on track to welcome 51.4 million international visitors to the United States this year, surpassing the 51.2 million that came in 2000 and a 5.9 percent jump from last year. But the group warned that it’s not a complete rebound.

A majority of that increase has come from Canadians and Mexicans — not overseas travelers — who spend more money when traveling and now have very favorable currency exchange rates.

Travel from Britain fell 8 percent from 2000 to 2005 and travel from Germany was down 21 percent.

The TIA expects both domestic and international travel growth to slow next year. TIA is expecting domestic travel to rise only 0.5 percent and international travel to increase 5 percent, officials said in a conference call last week.

“The U.S. travel industry has largely recovered from the challenges of our recent past,” said Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research at TIA. “The less positive news overall is we have seen a slowdown in travel growth this year. We expect that to continue as the economy downshifts and as consumers are more cautious in the months ahead.”

She attributed the slow increase to America’s poor image abroad, a more competitive international travel industry, and a public image that it is hard to get visas to travel to the United States.

We’re off to see the wizard

Two of the original munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” will be in the District this week to ceremoniously hand Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from the movie to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The slippers and more than 150 other items formerly housed in the National Museum of American History, such as Abraham Lincoln’s hat and Lewis and Clark’s compass, will be on public display temporarily at the Air and Space Museum beginning Friday until the American History museum reopens, scheduled for summer 2008.

The actors — Jerry Maren and Ruth Duccini — are in their 80s, and are two of the eight surviving former “munchkins,” according to Melinda Machado, a spokeswoman for the National Museum of American History. The event is not open to the public.

In other news …

• The retail division of KLNB LLC, a Washington-area real estate firm, recently made 10 new hires … all from one company. KLNB’s new employees are all formerly of the Northern Virginia office of Madison Retail Group, a District firm affiliated with Madison Marquette Realty Services LP. The group of employees, who represent retailers such as Harris Teeter, Home Depot Inc. and California Tortilla, say the split was amicable.

“As a result of changing business models within our former organization, the Northern Virginia team’s move to KLNB represents our best opportunity to pursue the type of retail transactions that play to our strengths,” said Dallon Cheney, one of the 10 employees.

• The first franchise of Marvelous Market restaurants opened Thursday. The new store is at 303 Seventh St. SE.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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