United States Actively Seeking Overseas Travelers

The United States doesn't attract nearly as many foreign travelers as it used to. And to try to address that, the U.S. government and travel industry have just announced the launch of the new Corporation for Travel Promotion.

Until now, each U.S. state has been responsible for attracting its own domestic and international tourists. The United States has never promoted itself to the world as a whole country.

"The U.S. never needed to until after the 9-11 attacks," says Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association. "Then international neighbors started feeling like they weren't wanted."

The U.S. has seen fewer overseas visitors in every year since September 11, 2001. And the decline in tourism has cost the country an estimated 18,000 jobs. The Corporation for Travel Promotion is trying to bring back those jobs.

A public and private partnership between the government and the tourism industry, the CTP board members include Mark Schwab, senior vice president-alliances, International and Regulatory Affairs, United Airlines; Al Weiss, president, worldwide operations, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; and Caroline Beteta, president and CEO, California Travel & Tourism Commission.

The group says one of its first tasks will be convincing international travelers that the U.S. is looking forward to seeing them, and every state needs the power of the U.S. brand to encourage people to visit.

“Even California does. Certainly Mississippi does, or Tennessee,” says Caroline Beteta, president of California's Travel & Tourism Commission, and now also the vice chairwoman of the CTP. "We need people to be thinking about America. If they're not thinking about America, they'll never consider California."

Each state is still going to promote itself and its iconic landmarks, and Beteta says the CTP will also promote those same icons to attract first-time visitors.
"In China and India, where it's a life dream for somebody to visit America, they're going to be more responsive to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Las Vegas." But Beteta says the group plans to market all of the country — all the different experiences and food cultures that aren't as popular abroad. She calls it the "Undiscovered U.S."

The U.S. Travel Association's Freeman says getting Homeland Security to improve the visa system and create a more efficient and "friendly" entrance procedure will be the most challenging work for the CTP.

"We have to convince these leaders to embrace the idea that we can be the world's most secure country, while also being the world's most welcoming, while also being the world's most efficient, while also being a country that promotes commerce," Freeman said.

(Photo credit - greenpack.rec.org)
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