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Federal Departments Announce New Tourism Strategy

Narric Rome

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and the U.S. Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar released the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Strategy as developed through the Task Force on Travel & Competitiveness.

The task force had been set up through a Presidential Executive Order in January that called for a strategy within 90 days. President Obama announced the Executive Order at a visit to one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, Main Street USA in Disneyworld.

That same day in Orlando, FL, a new slate of members of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board was sworn in by Secretary Bryson, including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch and Linda Carlisle, the Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources—both critical voices representing the arts and cultural tourism community within the larger tourism sector.

In its first three months of work, The U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) developed a set of recommendations to Secretary Bryson to inform his work, and that of the task force, on the development of the national strategy.

Among the TTAB recommendations that relate to the arts and culture were:

(1) the inclusion of the arts as an objective to attracting tourists to secondary markets throughout the country,

(2) how an “authentic” experience is critical to a quality experience, and

(3) the need to include local tourism partners, such as city agencies and destination marketing organizations as partners with the federal government.

Because the TTAB includes a wide range of representatives from the travel, tourism, hospitality, and restaurant industries, there are many other issues included in the set of recommendations forwarded to the secretary.

The strategy was released in coordination with National Travel and Tourism Week. It stated that last year, 62 million international tourists visited the United States and pumped a record $153 billion into local economies, helping to support the 7.6 million jobs in our travel and tourism industry. These numbers make tourism America’s number one service export.

The strategy sets a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors by 2021, which is expected to generate $250 billion annually in visitor spending by 2012. The strategy also encourages more Americans to travel within the United States.

The strategy also includes four items that should be of interest to cultural tourism leaders:

1) It recognized that, “A significant number of international travelers seek out nature- and culture-based experiences, such as visiting historic sites (40 percent of overseas travelers), cultural sites (23 percent) and national parks (20 percent)…Popular culture—including music, film, and television, and theme park experiences—is also a significant selling point.”

2) The report included a recommendation for federal agencies to partner with, and provide grants and technical assistance to local governments in order to attract and serve additional visitors. This would be in conjunction with Brand USA, the initiative responsible for promoting American destinations around the world. Brand USA recently launched the first global campaign with a song “Land of Dreams” by Roseanne Cash. The connected television ads include significant profile arts and cultural activities in its narrative:

3) There was a recommendation to create a national travel and tourism office at the U.S. Department of Commerce;

4) The report called for annual summits on travel and tourism to foster communication between federal agencies and tourism leaders.

What’s next? With the President’s approval, the Tourism Policy Council will coordinate implementation of this National Strategy among the federal agencies and boards like the TTAB.

While there are over 10 federal agencies involved in this effort, the pieces most connected to cultural tourism will be handled by Department of Commerce. At a recent convening of the Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange, Bob Lynch briefed the group on the work of the TTAB and offered to those from the Partners in Tourism coalition, and all cultural tourism stakeholders, that he’d be happy to receive feedback and comments on these federal efforts.

The TTAB will be most active in tracking the implementation of these recommendations and we’d be interested to hear about what’s going on in your state or community regarding tourism and arts partnerships.

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