WASHINGTON: The US Travel Association, with with support from travel and hospitality organizations, is ramping up its grassroots marketing and lobbying effort to gain support for the Travel Promotion Act. The legislation, which passed the Senate but is pending in the House, aims to strengthen the US' image abroad and reverse a decline in travel to the US.
Geoff Freeman, SVP of public affairs at the US Travel Association, explained that the association proposed the idea three years ago to market the US and better communicate America's security policy.
“Frequently misinterpreted security policies has led to a rash of negative [foreign] headlines discouraging them to come to the US,” said Freeman. “It's up to us to bypass that filter.”
The bill would create the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a nonprofit entity comprised of a full-time marketing staff and board of private sector marketing representatives reporting to the Department of Commerce.
The association is currently focusing on getting the legislation passed, providing convention and district bureaus with promotional material and information to help them communicate the potential economic impact to local media outlets. The association also plans to bring about 300 activists to this week's Travel Leadership Summit and communicate how they can be advocates and communicate directly with members of Congress.
“The groups are most beneficial lending their inside-the-beltway resources, walking the halls of Congress,” said Freeman.
He noted that the association also plans on sending a letter to respond to the European Union's backlash against a $10 fee for international travelers, which is expected to help fund the marketing activities.
Though the bill passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan majority of 79 to 19, those who voted against it expressed concerns about the costs and true impact it might have on the economy. Guam, a US territory, is also concerned about the impact of the fee on local tourism, as well as the level to which it would benefit from US promotion.
Meanwhile, groups like the National Restaurant Association are throwing their support behind the legislation, and thinking about how they could incorporate its message into their own marketing platforms.
Mike Donohue, VP of media relations for the National Restaurant Association, explained that the president of the association plans to have a leadership role in the Corporation for Travel Promotion.
It's early to say how exactly the proposed organization would market the US, explained Donohue. He added, “I think the focus and coordination could well provide new avenues of thought for marketing the industry as a whole and providing greater ideas in terms of... PR and the mechanisms and ways to deliver these messages.”
Markets hit particularly hard by a drop in international travel, such as Las Vegas, also hope to work closely with the group if the legislation succeeds.
“Over 5.5 million international visitors come a year,” said Vince Alberta, VP of public affairs for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We'll look at our existing programs and see where and how we can further enhance those to benefit from this national campaign.”
Its implementation could also encourage travel PR agencies to expand their efforts globally.
“With this, I think we'll step up our efforts in international markets because it'll give us additional opportunities to encourage people to come to this country,” said Lou Hammond, chairman at Lou Hammond & Associates, a PR agency specializing in travel and tourism PR.
“I don't know how they plan to spend the money, but if they're smart they'll use PR.”