Friday, June 03, 2011

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! not just a chant but also a brand

I am addicted to trade shows but when I received an invitation to attend the 11th Global Travel and Tourism Summit held in Las Vegas last month, it was hard to pass up.

I confess I did not originally know what the Summit was about but I this was a great chance to attend a an event at the Aria Resort and Casino, so I managed to procure a press credential for the May 17-19 gathering of leaders. The list of speakers and guests was a Who’s Who of Global travel leaders that included CEOs and VP’s of various international hotel, travel and tourism companies, members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, heads of various internet travel companies and the President of Mexico Felipe Calderón.

This was the first time this Summit was held in Las Vegas and just the second time the United States hosted the annual meeting organized by the World Travel & Tourism Council. It was a great opportunity for Las Vegas to showcase itself to the Global travel community.
Representing and welcoming nearly 1,000 delegates from 65 countries to Las Vegas were Mayor Oscar Goodman and Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO and President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“But basically what Las Vegas is all about is it’s about fun in the evening and about doing serious business in the during the daytime,” said Mayor Goodman as during his brief time on the stage.

One press conference I attended was by the Corporation for Travel Promotion membership panel who discussed what it is doing to bring more tourism to the United States. It is a fact that the U.S. has seen fewer overseas visitors every year since the Sept. 11 attacks.
People used to come here for the mountains, beaches, cities, cuisine, historical monuments, or just to take in a baseball game or a Broadway play. People have their own reasons for visiting the U.S.

The U.S. did not need to promote itself but lately many tourists have been perhaps afraid or unsure of traveling to Los Angeles, New York, Miami or even Las Vegas.

The new Corporation for Travel Promotion is trying to increase travel to the States and have formed a public and private partnership between the government and the tourism industry, including the heads of Diamond Resorts International and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando.

Its board members say every state needs to pull behind the power of the U.S. brand to entice people visit.

But the question seems to be just how do you promote a country as large as the United States?

“Each state is still going to promote itself and its iconic landmarks,” according to Caroline Beteta, president and CEO, California Travel & Tourism Commission.” Beteta says the CTP will also promote those same icons to attract first-time visitors.

"We need people to be thinking about America," says Beteta, who is also the vice chairwoman of the CTP. "If they're not thinking about America, they'll never consider California.”

Las Vegas has a lot to market to the global travel community beyond the casinos, sun and swimming pools. Las Vegas is a one-stop global tour with its own Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and erupting volcano.

Luring tourist to America will be the task at hand for Jim Evan, who during the Summit was announced as the CEO to run the Corporation and develop all the marketing programs to attract millions more visitors to the U.S.

Evans is a long-time industry leader with strong marketing and CEO experience and a successful record of coalition building, which is extremely important given the need to align the priorities of 50 states, hundreds of destinations.

Currently the CTP is launching "Destination America" — an international ad campaign including TV spots, print ads and websites to educate the world about the rules for entering the United States.

The 12th Summit is scheduled to take place in Tokyo on April 17-19, 2012. That is a bit too far for me to travel.

However, after a few days at the Global Summit I was convinced I needed to see more of America myself. I think I will start with Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston or the Bellagio Fountains.