Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 13 2012


Christopher Durso

Industry Embraces President Obama’s New Tourism Strategy

Is it time to prono unce the AIG Effect dead and buried? Three years after touching off a backlash against holding incentive programs and other business events in entertainment and resort destinations, President Obama traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando to announce plans for “a national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs.”

Obama spoke against the backdrop of the Magic Kingdom at the Jan. 19 event. “In 2010, nearly 60 million international visitors helped the tourism industry generate over $134 billion,” he said. “Tourism is the No. 1 service that we export. … And that means jobs. More money spent by more tourists means more businesses can hire more workers.”

Building on the passage of 2010’s Travel Promotion Act, which created the Corporation for Travel Promotion, Obama said, he was calling on his administration to expand the Global Entry Program to “almost all international travelers coming to the United States”; add countries to the Visa Waiver Program; and increase by 40 percent the ability to process visas in China and Brazil this year. Obama said: “I want America to be the top tourist destination in the world.”

The meetings and hospitality industry is right there with him. “We are thrilled that the administration sees the value of face-to-face meetings,” said Deborah Sexton, PCMA’s president and CEO, “and is committed to fixing the visa situation and also working on improving the current broken infrastructure of our passport entry experience.” Chairman of the PCMA Board of Directors Kent Allaway, CEM, CMP, vice president of meetings and trade shows for the Produce Marketing Association, added: “This is a huge win for all of us in the face-to-face community that are trying to attract a larger percentage of international attendees at our events, meetings, and conventions.”

Other industry leaders were similarly pleased, including:

Geoff Freeman, executive vice president and COO, U.S. Travel Association: “President Obama’s recent remarks are the clearest signal ever sent from the White House that the meetings industry, and the broader travel industry, is critical to America’s economic health. The industry’s ability to create jobs, strengthen business operations, and drive spending that powers local economies is both unique and of first-order importance for an economic recovery stuck in neutral.” (Read Freeman’s entire response of behalf of U.S. Travel at http://bit.ly/Obama-USTA(HYPER).)

Joe McInerney, president and CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA): “We commend President Obama for prioritizing this bipartisan and high-growth area for our economy. We are encouraged that the President listened to the travel industry’s call that bringing more international visitors represents a minimal investment and high return proposition. We look forward to working with his administration to create jobs and strengthen the economy.”

Robert Gilbert, president and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HS MAI ): “HSM AI members from the sales and marketing community have known for years that more international travelers want to come here; hopefully this new strategy will reduce the barriers to entry. Combined with the new efforts of the Corporation for Travel Promotion ... the U.S. should now be on a path to rebuild its international market share for meetings and conventions and corporate and leisure travelers.”

Yulita Osuba, CMP, president, Convention Service Professionals International (CS PI); senior director of sales, marketing, event management, and exhibitor services, Orange County Convention Center: “The last several years have been tough on our industry, and it is refreshing to see the government open itself up to greater international travel. CS PI members work hard to bring business to their respective destinations, and the executive order can only increase opportunities for these sales professionals.”

Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO , Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI ): “DMAI applauds the administration’s efforts in prioritizing tourism as part of the U.S. economic agenda and recognizing travel as the real economic driver and job creator that it is. Hundreds of our U.S. members have been marketing their ... destinations internationally for years, and are eager to work with a unified U.S. travel and tourism strategy.”

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