As the U.S. Travel Association gets ready to present a strategic plan to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce next week, in the wake of Thursday's passage of the Travel Promotion Act by the Senate, USTA President and CEO Roger Dow says e-mail and online marketing will play "a good part" in the upcoming efforts to market the U.S. as an inbound travel destination.
Asked during a press conference today if the association's vision was to have the 11-member Corporation for Travel Promotion stick to TV and radio ads around the globe in their marketing efforts, Dow said electronic marketing has proven effective and will be a substantial part of the plan.
Geoffrey Freeman, the association's vice president of public affairs, says it will take 2-6 months for the Obama administration to fill the 11 slots on the Corporation for Travel Promotion, and 5-12 months to get the Dept. of Homeland Security Electronic System for Travel Authorization fee mechanism in place.
Dow says the goal is to fill the corporation's 11 slots with marketing experts from inside and outside the travel industry.
The aim is for the $10 ESTA fees, payable every two years by some foreign visitors, to raise $100 million annually, and this would be matched by private-sector funding to give the corporation some $200 million annually to promote U.S. tourism.
The fee element of the plan is controversial as some business travel organizations argue that imposing a fee would dissuade, rather than promote, inbound travel.
However, Dow cites an Oxford Economics study, which concluded that the Travel Promotion Act would attract $1.6 million additional visitors to the U.S. annually, and would trigger an additional $4 billion in new consumer spending.
Of the $100 million in private-sector funding, Dow says about 80% would be in the form of in-kind contributions -- i.e. free advertising or fam trips to Florida, for example -- and 20% would be in cash.
Dow characterizes the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which was expected to be signed into law by President Obama within 10 days, "a landmark day for the travel community."
He says it is not a panacea, but is the "biggest commitment" the goverment has shown to tourism promotion.