ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - In recent years, the United States was the only country in the world without a national tourism department, advertising campaign or Web site, according to William Norman, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Industry Association of America.
That has just changed. The national tourism association launched a one-stop shopping Web site www.seeamerica.org
Oct. 19, Norman announced at the Governor`s Conference on Tourism in Albuquerque last month. It links to U.S. Net sites that tourists can use to pick their itinerary.
For example, a tourist searching by key words “ski” and “Southwest” would likely come to the New Mexico Tourism Department`s Web site (www.newmexico.org
), which links to hundreds of local businesses.
Net users can search by location, activity and price. Headings connect to destinations, hotels, attractions, transportation companies and travel agents.
The Web site is not a booking engine but a portal—which leads the way to sites that book business. It will immediately offer access to the association`s 2,000-plus member companies and organizations and more will be added daily. The association is a nonprofit representing all components of the country`s travel and tourism industry.
“This is an unprecedented effort in which the private sector is taking the lead in promoting in-bound tourism to the states,” Norman said. “We recently put together a strategic vision of where we want to go.”
That direction is toward boosting the $542 billion U.S. travel and tourism industry, the nation`s largest services export industry and one of its biggest employers, according to 1998 association figures.
And of that, the fastest-growing segment is international tourism. The association is aggressively wooing British, Japanese and Brazilian tourists to start. It will launch a new advertising campaign - “What is your American dream?” - this spring that promotes the diversity of the states.
“There is no country in the world with the beauty and grandeur of the U.S.,” said Norman, an avid globetrotter. “But if the world doesn`t know about us, or if there are barriers to entry, they`ll go elsewhere.”
The goals are to regain market share the United States lost when the government abolished the national tourism office four years ago and to get renewed governmental support. The U.S. market share of the international tourism pie has shrunk by 23.5 percent over the past five years, Norman said. Now the United States ranks third behind France and Spain in numbers of foreign tourists.
“And New Mexico needs to look overseas for tourists,” Norman said. “Why? Because the international traveler stays longer and spends three to four times the amount of money (as domestic). It`s a rich, open market.”