Last week I attended the ONE Travel Conference for Shopping, Dining and Cultural Tourism in Orlando. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but the speaker line up looked good and I thought the conference’s focus on shopping, dining and cultural heritage made sense; it certainly hit our agency’s sweet spot in consumer marketing. The women who co-presented the conference Rosemary McCormick, President of Shop America Alliance and Sheila Armstrong, Executive Director of U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council are a formidable pair with surprising energy, a powerful network and generous spirit of sharing.
The title of the conference was Creating Coopertition and Connections. This word, coopertition, really summed up the spirit of the meeting. Lots of competitors were in the ballroom, but they recognized that they will all be more successful working together for US tourism than competing.
1. Since 1997 the US has lost one third of its share of the international travel market. Roger Dow, CEO of the US Travel Association (USTA), called the ten years from 9/11 to last year the “Lost Decade,” as more than 1 million jobs were lost in the tourism sector. Now, international travel may have slowed down due to the recession in 2007-2009, but there was still lots of travel happening. It just didn’t happen here because we rolled up the welcome mat. Ouch.
The USTA is working with the Obama administration, the Department of Commerce and many travel associations and organizations around the country to bring international travel back. Part of this work is around loosening the tight net the government imposed on visas post-9/11. A public private partnership has launched a $200 million marketing campaign called Brand USA this year and most of the destination marketing managers I met are intently focused on the international market.
2. The marrying of shopping, dining and cultural heritage at the meeting made intuitive sense to me. Now I have confirmation because those are the top three activities in order, in terms of spend by travelers.
If what you offer is a wonderful shopping, dining or cultural experience, piggy back on what the industry is doing and focus on these markets. Check out the links above and learn more about what’s being done. These visitors want what you have to sell. The beauty of the Internet is that you don’t need a big budget to reach those travelers. You need a smart online strategy that involves quality, shareable content; targeted media relations and social media dedication.