America, Open for Business

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Posted At: Feburary 12, 2012 2:00 PM
by Lauren Cuervo and Mariah Fairweather

After winning Super Bowl XLVI, Eli Manning, like many others before him, yelled, “I’m going to Disney World!”

Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., is known as the happiest place on earth, a place where all your dreams can come true.

On Jan. 19, 2012, President Obama stood in front of Cinderella’s castle and announced his plan to build jobs by increasing the United States travel and tourism industry.

During his speech, he cited tourism as the United States’ number-one exported service in 2010. Nearly 60 million international visitors helped the tourism industry generate more than $134 billion.

President Obama stated very clearly that his goal is to increase the tourism market this year, not in five years.

According to a Visit California press release,  the United States is the top international travel destination for visitors from Brazil and China. To help increase tourism from these countries, the State Department has been directed to accelerate the processing of visas for their citizens by 40 percent.

“International visitation remains an untapped pot of gold when people cannot get here,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California and vice-chair of Brand USA, in the press release.

“With an abundance of visitor experiences and a brand loved worldwide, California has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from efforts to improve the entry process for foreign visitors,” she said.

In addition, as stated in the release, California attracted approximately 401,000 Chinese tourists and 112,000 Brazilian tourists in 2010. The Chinese tourists alone spent more than $1 billion in California.

Two years ago, President Obama signed a bill into law called the Travel Promotion Act that set up the nonprofit Brand USA. According to the organization’s website, it aims “to bring millions of new international visitors who spend billions of dollars to the United States, creating tens of thousands of new American jobs.”

Brand USA will help promote the United States as an overall travel destination, but many companies already target international markets.

For example, Jim Dean, park president of Busch Gardens Tampa, said, “SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment attracts European and Brazilian tourists by building awareness of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks through in-market sales and marketing efforts in those countries, as well as focused social media initiatives.”

A closer look

One state where both foreign and domestic travel is proving increasingly beneficial to the local economy is Florida, the country’s tourism leader.

Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, is taking this growing tourist market into consideration as it forms new strategies for promoting travel to the state.

According to a news release on the organization’s website, 82.3 million out-of-state and international tourists visited Florida in 2010 alone, generating more than $60 billion worth of revenue and supporting the employment of 974,700 Floridians.

Martyn Jackson, general manager of the Florida attraction Butterfly World, couldn’t be happier about President Obama’s plans to actively increase travel.

“I would say that about 35 percent of our customers are out-of-state and overseas visitors; and we are a smaller, more regional attraction,” Jackson said. “The fact that they already make up such a large portion of our business means that promotion of travel to and within the state will only do great things for our entire economy.”

The news release also states that as of November 2011, the number of tourists to Florida had already exceeded the previous year’s total. Leading the pack of foreign travelers during this time were Brazilians, who surpassed Canadians for the first time, and comprised more than 1 million of the state’s tourists.

“I believe that international tourists visit the U.S. and Florida because of the great climate and the fact that we have some of the best beaches and best attractions in the world, not to mention a reputation of world-class hospitality,” Dean said.

Brazil’s growing economy also gives these visitors great spending power. Flocking mostly to the South Florida region, Brazilians had spent more than $1.6 billion as of November 2011, which means the arrangements to facilitate travel from this region are especially good news for the Sunshine State.

“As the state’s No. 1 industry and a key driver of the Florida economy, I’m greatly encouraged by increases in tourism industry jobs and visitors to the Sunshine State,” Gov. Rick Scott said in the release.

Visit Florida’s recent partnership with Google focuses on the power the Internet has on planning vacations. Eighty-five percent of travelers say they plan their vacations online and 37 percent claim the Internet is where they were first prompted to do so. Florida is the first state to form a partnership with the search engine site, which will create an advertising co-op to encourage online booking.

“With this new program, Google and VISIT FLORIDA are reinventing co-op marketing for the modern age, helping partners reach consumers where they are – online,” said Sarah Travis, head of advertising for destination marketers at Google, in a news release. “The new program brings traditional marketing concepts online at a scale that can make a substantive impact on the local Florida tourism market.”

Marketing strategies like Google co-op and Brand USA are just some of the many steps being taken to shape U.S. tourism, a brand that still proves to have great market value.

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