04 OCT 2010: Roger Dow is president and chief executive officer of the US Travel Association, the national umbrella organization representing all segments of the US travel and tourism industry.

Prior to joining US Travel, where he has served in his present position since 2005, Dow rose through the ranks at Marriott International in a career that spanned 34 years.

Among his many awards, Dow was recognized by his peers as the 2008 Association Executive of the Year, an honor presented by Association Trends magazine.

Roger Dow agreed to answer questions for One on One, after attending this year’s Pow Wow Conference in Orlando earlier this year.

Where was your last trip? Business or pleasure?

I was in Beijing China on business for the World Travel and Tourism Summit. In addition to participating in this Summit which brings in Ministers of Tourism from all around the world and heads of companies like Bill Marriott and Barry Diller who owns Expedia, I spent time with the US ambassador and looked at the Visa processing.

What’s your favourite airport? What’s the best thing about it?

I’ve got a couple. The Vancouver International Airport. Its customer friendly a lot of new facilities you can move through it very easily. It has good shopping and it’s bright. Another airport I like is Pittsburgh. They designed the airport before September 11th with the idea that airports were also places where you can have people come and shop. Pittsburgh has the best shopping and it’s the only airport in the world where I don’t mind if I have a delay. They maintain Main Street pricing.

What are your "necessity items" for a long flight?

I pack anything that’ll fit in a 3oz container. I’m a big believer and try not to go through baggage check-in. I pack a normal change of clothes, a good book and my new Ipad and a set of Bose headphones for movies.

Where’s home?

United Airlines but kidding aside, it’s Potomac Maryland about 12 miles from downtown Washington.

What would you take with you if you were going to be stranded on a desert island?

(No hesitation in voice) My wife. If I could get a signal I’d take this Ipad.

What's your favourite city getaway spot?

I have several. It’s not a city, Steamboat Springs Colorado. It’s a ski area. We have a home there. I like it because it’s a real live cowboy town and nobody cares unlike other major ski resorts if you came with your private jet or scraped enough money to get there so I like the laid back feel of Steamboat Springs.

I also like St. Petersburg Florida; it’s on the gulf. You can walk to restaurants there. We have a place on the east coast of Florida and I like getting down there a lot. When I arrive you have to take a little tiny tow bridge and all you see is the Atlantic Ocean as soon as I hit the top of the bridge US Travel is behind me for a little while.

My favourite time of day is 5 o’clock when people are getting ready to get off the beach. The breezes start to pick up off the ocean. Just sitting there and reading a book with the sunset.

Favourite ice cream flavor?

Starbucks java chip, it’s great ice cream. It has much too much cream.

Morning coffee or tea?

I like black hazelnut coffee no cream no sugar. I like it that way because when I was in the army they never had any cream or sugar.

What three websites do you visit on a daily basis?

I visit DiscoverAmerica.com every day. That’s our website and USTravel.org. I get WallStreetJornal.com to see what happens in the news overnight. I also look at Realtor.com for play to see what houses cost across the country.

What are you currently reading?

My reading is mostly escape reading. I’ve got David Baldacci “Deliver us from evil.” It’s fun. The other is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.

If you could invite one internationally famous couple to join you for dinner who would they be?

That’s interesting. I don’t know about a couple but I wouldn’t mind having dinner with Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill.

I think the three of us could have a pretty good conversation. I met Ronald Reagan before. He’s a real individual. I was sitting next to him (Reagan)at lunch one day and he leaned over and said to me “How many saves?” I couldn’t understand him so I asked him “What Mr. President” and he said “How many saves. I used to be a lifeguard too.”

It struck me that here’s the President of the United States and he’s taken the time to see that this kid used to be a lifeguard at one time. He was charismatic and had an optimistic attitude about things.

Winston Churchill was a guy who was out of power when he basically stepped up in WW2 at a time when the odds were unbelievable and he had this optimism and was able to rally a country against odds that were ridiculous, all with a great sense of humour.

What are you listening to on your I-Pod?

Yes, I have one. I have an Iphone and an Ipad. I have a lot of different music. A little country, a little modern stuff and classics like Elton John and Susan Boyle.

Andrea Bocelli - I love him. I had the pleasure of having dinner with him a few years ago in Italy and he’s a very shy person. And then when he gets up to sing this shy person gets up and sings phenomenally.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a doctor an orthopedic surgeon specifically because when I was 12 years old I broke my ankle. The orthopedic surgeon who set it was kind of a nice guy and a macho guy.

Later I went to university as a pre med major. I was top of the class and slowly I lost my interest. I decided I didn’t like laboratories, so I went to my guidance counselor and told them I want to be in business and they said you can’t go into business because you did all these premed courses. How about psychology? So I graduated with a degree in psychology.

When I graduated I still didn’t know what I wanted to be so I ended up working at the Marriott hotel as a lifeguard when they had six hotels. I talked to the GM who said ‘Why don’t you come work for Marriott I bet they’ll have 100 hotels one day.’

So I went to work for them, and when I left Marriott they had over 3,000 hotels. So Bill is a man of vision and he’s one of my best friends. I stumbled into a career like many of us do then it ended up becoming my career that I enjoy the dickens out of and I look back thinking ‘Thank God I’m not spending every minute setting broken bones.’

Do you have a mentor?

One of my heroes and mentor is Bill Marriott. He’s 79 now I think. He’s the most wonderful people person there is. I worked for him for 34 years. He keeps his promises and he’s just a darned good guy.

The other hero is my uncle George who sadly is deceased but he changed my life phenomenally. He was a very successful person. He was friends, to give you an idea, with President Nixon, and when he’d go to the carwash he’d talk to the guys at the carwash and knew them by their first names.

He was friends with them, too. What I learned from him is there were no big people and small people. I just always admired how he dealt with people on every single level. And he was in sales. And I grew up watching him in sales and he was my hero, he was always very good at it. He built great relationships so I learned people skills from him and he’s a big hero of mine.

What trait do you admire in people?

I admire people who sincerely care about other people and are not out for their own personal gain all the time.

What’s on your wish list?

Live long enough to really enjoy grandchildren. If I could look back over my shoulder and see that I truly made a difference somewhere. I’m hopeful about the stuff we’re working on now, like the Travel Promotions Act we recently passed. I think I could look at that 10 years from now and say it changed the industry.

What is your definition of happiness?

Being able to look yourself in the mirror and being happy with who you are and being surrounded by family. Happiness is being very comfortable in your own skin and not looking back saying geez I wish I could have - should have.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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