TravelMole's Graham Mckenzie returns from Pow Wow 2012 with a newfound respect for Brand USA. Here he explains why...
"Tourism in the US generated $1.9trillion in economic output last year, raised $124billion in tax revenue for local, state and federal government, created a $42.8 billon travel trade surplus and supported 14.4 million jobs (one of every nine in the US economy as a whole). Yet over the past 10 years the slice of the global travel market cake that the US enjoys has been getting smaller.
In the UK, under the current regime, it is quite likely that the solution to this scenario would have been to reduce spending and cut costs, or shrink the number of customs officers to make those immigration queues a just that bit longer, or maybe get rid of some civil servants so it"s more difficult to get a visa. Or, how about decreasing the funding to local, regional and national tourist boards, keep purchase tax up at 20% on goods and services that the travel and tourism industry are dependent upon and sell, then just for good measure put a tax on anybody flying and pretend that it"s going to help reduce pollution.
Not so in the US of A. Some two years President Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act and gave not just a huge financial boost to the industry but also a political one. A boost that means tourism is recognised as an important piece of the economic jigsaw and that, without it performing well, the entire picture gets distorted. Funded by private sector contributions and a $10 fee for most visa applications it has allowed the industry to plan and strategise a return to growth.
The initiative for this was led by the US Travel organisation and their main man Roger Dow who gathered together a caucus of powerful travel people, organisations and companies to lobby and cajole the political authorities to take action. With the act signed and funds secured the planning started and a new public private partnership was established to take on the marketing and promotion of the entire country as a great place to visit.
International Pow Wow 2012 here in Los Angeles has seen the unveiling of a whole raft of ideas, commercials and social media plans under the umbrella of Brand USA. Try though I might as a cynical Brit to find fault with the whole thing, it"s really not possible. The entire industry seems on a high and is galvanised, sure in the knowledge that its future promotion is in the hands of clever, creative and professional hands. Best of all, however, is the recognition from the top downwards of the importance of tourism within the economy.
President Obama recorded a video to play for the delegates here to underline his understanding and commitment to tourism and travel. I fully expect a similar effort from Chancellor Gideon Osborne or maybe the Premier himself to be shown at the Travel Convention in October where they detail what tax will be increased next and how the way out of any recession is too cut, cut and cut again. Maybe Edward Scissorhands would be more appropriate?"
Friday, April 27, 2012