US travel execs unite to boost foreign visitation

WASHINGTON: A coalition of US travel and tourism executives recently unveiled a campaign to promote legislation that would better attract foreign visitors.

WASHINGTON: A coalition of US travel and tourism executives recently unveiled a campaign to promote legislation that would better attract foreign visitors.

The Discover America Partnership (DAP), as the coalition is called, announced its "Blueprint to Discover America" at a January 31 morning press conference.

Among the group's objectives are making the application for visas overseas faster and simpler, speeding up the processing of international travelers entering the US, and creating a plan to improve the image of the US in certain countries.

The press conference was followed by a related hearing later in the day by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where Discovery America members served as witnesses.

"It's not very often that the wheels of Congress move that quickly; that you release something at 11am and then you've got a commerce committee hearing at 2:30pm," said Geoff Freeman, DAP executive director.

Freeman said efforts to promote the proposed travel reform would involve traditional grassroots outreach to the various associations allied with his group, including the National Restaurant Association, the Travel Industry Association, and the Destination Marketing Association International.

Fleishman-Hillard is assisting with media relations for the effort, while Monument Policy Group (MPG) is providing strategic counsel and lobbying. Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) director Tom Ridge is also a consultant and will help promote DAP's aims publicly.

"The people who care about this are not just the tourism crowd," said MPG partner C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a former DHS assistant secretary for policy and planning who led deployment of the US-VISIT entry-exit program for foreign visitors.

"It's [also] companies trying to bring people in for business relationships, to sell things, or hold conventions," he added. "Anyone who is an American should care about the public diplomacy value of bringing people in to experience the country."

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