To a New Yorker, “spotting a tourist” could be one heck of a drinking game. Move over, St. Patty’s, we will be out of beer before noon! But NYC isn’t like the rest of the country. With a few exceptions (LA,Miami, Chicago), our country’s heartland hardly gets the recognition it deserves. Not many international tourists are arriving in Bismarck, ND to discover the 3000-year-old Mandan Indian Village or enjoy the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
As promised in 2008, the change has come. President Obama’s Travel Promotion Act, signed on March 4 will shed light on myriad destinations the U.S. has to offer outside of the Big Apple. Various global promotions will draw our international friends to explore the American soul through its countryside: have their heads carved out of butter at a state fair, learn square dancing, snowmobiling and ice-fishing. Budgets are streamlined to make all parts of the country equally appealing. Well, sort of. The money will come from a $10 entry fee charged to overseas visitors.
This $10 fee would apply to some 35 visa waiver countries, most of which are from the European Union. The fee, albeit negligible, is feared by some to become a possible deterrent for international travelers, and may also result in reciprocity from the EU.
Does it make sense for EU travelers to be charged for the privilege of coming to the US to spend their Euros here as tourists? This would certainly not go down well with Americans traveling to Europe. So why should it go down well for Europeans, and others, traveling to America?
For the travel marketing community however, this is obviously an incredible new opportunity. Even though the funds are not even available yet, no time is being wasted as the marketers have been actively looking at ways how to leverage international marketing efforts to take advantage of the new (potentially $200 million/year) funding from the Travel Promotion Act.
Beyond the recent U.S. Census campaign, this type of national unified effort has not been seen. And so it is no surprise that the majority of speakers at the major travel conferences have added this topic to the agendas.
Everybody in the industry will try to get a piece of this attractive pie. And what a pie it is! Let the games begin.
More information on Travel Promotion Act at www.poweroftravel.org