This must be the oldest broken record in the tourism destination
marketing industry. I’ve been hearing the same story since about the
mid-’80s over and over again with only the players changing. Why is it
that the U.S. federal government doesn’t get the message? After endless
summits, round-tables, even White House conferences nothing has
changed. The budget allocated is either pitiful or non-existent.
Here is my take on why this situation exists after all these valiant
attempts by industry leaders over the years and why the U.S. is the
only major country that gets away with this kind of national tourism
policy, or rather lack thereof, and still is near the top of visited
countries. There are a number of strong brands that pull the train.
1) Florida, New York (The Big Apple), Las Vegas, Hawaii, Miami, San
Francisco, Los Angeles (Hollywood)
2) Disney, Universal theme parks
3) Major hotel chains like Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt with global reach
and brand recognition
4) Hertz, Avis as well known has the hotel brands around the world
All these entities spend hundreds of millions in marketing that not
only benefits their own brand, but by extension the U.S. brand as a
destination for foreign visitors.
Name one other country that on a national level that can benefit from
this array of strong brands both pubic entities and private
corporations with that kind of marketing efforts that have and equal
impact on the destination. None, in my opinion and I’ve been involved
in global tourism marketing for 30 years.
While this fact certainly does not excuse the lack of a financial
commitment by the federal government, at least it might explain it.
While the private sector is trying to build up a strong travel industry
lobby, it has a tough job on its hands as the industry itself is too
fragmented and the easy way out for government is always to point out
how effective the private sector marketing effort is and how much it is
appreciated. This, paradoxically, leads to the present situation where
the industry is congratulated for its great effort by the national
government but not helped by corresponding government funding, e.g.
with matching grants as is the case in Canada and elsewhere. Imagine
the juggernaut such matching grants would build, by effectively
doubling the private sectors overall investment. The reality is the
government tokenism with pitiful amounts such as $ 4 million, not even
sufficient for a single market campaign.
What will change the status quo? In my humble opinion, nothing as the
only weapon the private sector and the state entities have is one it
can’t deploy – stop your own marketing to force the national government
to pick up its end of the bargain. So, the summitts, conferences,
round-tables will continue and nothing will really change.