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Visit America
The Travel Industry Association of America announced this week its new initiative to promote the United States as a premier travel destination

CNN's Jim Morelli reports on the travel industry's plan to promote travel in the U.S.
Windows Media 28K 80K

U.S. travel industry creates international marketing program

September 17, 1999
Web posted at: 1:39 p.m. EDT (1739 GMT)

(CNN) -- France has one, so do Great Britain, Australia and even tiny Aruba. The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn't have a national tourism board, and travel agents say that may be costing the U.S. travel industry billions of dollars.

"These visitors (from outside the country) stay twice as long (at vacation destinations) and spend twice as much as our own citizens and we've barely begun to tap the potential," says Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Carlson Companies Inc.

With so much at stake, the non-profit Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) announced this week it's creating a private-sector marketing program -- one that might eventually lead to a government partnership.

At one time, the government did have an agency to promote tourism, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA). But in 1995, Congress decided to cut funding. And travel writer Arthur Frommer, a strong proponent of a national tourism office, says the original agency was a weak one.

"Even when USTTA did exist," he says, "it received less money than the tiny island of Barbados ... appropriates for its tourism marketing. It had a mere fraction of the funds available to the British Travel Authority or the French Government Tourist Office. It was able to operate a few scattered tourism offices overseas, publish some brochures and place some advertisements."

First markets: Japan, the U.K., Brazil

Travel Industry Association official Chris Bowers says the first targets of the private-sector marketing program "are going to be Japan and the United Kingdom, America's No. 1 and No. 2 largest overseas markets, respectively. An in-country presence will also be established in Brazil, which is our largest South American market. And in subsequent years the program will expand to Germany and perhaps to several other countries as well."

International travel to the United States surged in the early 1990s, but it's leveled off in recent years because of the strength of the dollar and ongoing economic problems in Asia, according to Frommer. More and more travelers, he says, are going to such places as Spain, which recently bumped the U.S. from the No. 2 spot on the international destination list. Australia is a popular destination, too -- and it spends about $100 million a year luring tourists.

TIA's initial effort is expected to be modest by comparison, budgeted at about $4 million to start. But U.S. tourist officials, like Bill Howard of the Atlanta Convention & Visitor's Bureau, welcomes the help.

"It's extremely critical," Howard says, "that we have a partner that is opening up doors for us and making it easier for us to get our message to those (international tourism) audiences and compete with other countries."

CNN Travel Now Correspondent Jim Morelli contributed to this report

Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel online
Atlanta Convention & Visitor's Bureau
Carlson Travel
Travel Industry Association of America
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