Can the Travel Promotion Act Increase U.S. Tourist Diversity?

Poster for the United States Travel Bureau promoting tourism. Created for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, by Frank S. Nicholson, between 1936 and 1939.

As hard as it might be to believe, until President Obama recently signed the Travel Promotion Act into law, the United States did not have an official organization promoting travel to this country. Every other country in the world has some form of marketing and promotional organization encouraging people to visit their country, and now the U.S. can “join the party” and officially extol the virtues of travel to the United States.

The Act will create a nonprofit, Corporation for Travel Promotion, with the purpose of promoting the country as a travel destination and explain travel and security policies to international visitors.

“By signing the Travel Promotion Act, President Obama has acted to support the power of travel to serve as an economic stimulant, job generator and diplomatic tool,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

With this increase in international visitors there will also be an increase in the diversity of the visitors, which will necessitate increased awareness of how to deal with a diverse traveling market. Those companies in the travel industry – hotels, airlines, car rental companies, rail – will all have to develop the ability to train their staff to deal with an ever-changing client. From language training to cultural understanding, this will be a formidable task for the industry, but the potential costs will be far outweighed by the increased visitor spending. As the world make-up changes, so must the travel industry.

The Department of Commerce recently announced the selection of individuals to fill the 11 positions on the corporation’s board with representatives from all corners of the industry. We at IMAGES USA are especially proud of the fact that David Lim, Chief Marketing Officer of their client Amtrak, has been honored to be appointed as a Director of the corporation’s board.

The U.S. has seen a steadily decreasing number of international visitors between 2000 and 2008. There were 633,000 fewer visitors to the U.S. in 2008 than in 2000. Lack of strong promotion, concerns about heavy security requirements and a massive recession have all been major factors in this decrease. While the new legislation will be a benefit, it is important to note that marketing promotions alone will not result in immediate gains in international visitors. Modification of visa requirements, explanations and justifications of security policies and help from an improving world economy will all work together to help build the increase. Oxford Economics, an economic consulting and forecasting company, estimates a well-executed promotional program would draw 1.6 million more international visitors annually and generate $4 billion in new visitor spending.

Sounds like a win-win for America’s travel industry and international travelers!

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