Money, money, money

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President Obaman has signed the Travel Promotion Act into law. The Travel Promotion Act that suggests that visitors from the 35 countries included in the so called Visa Waiver program shall pay a $10 fee when they apply for authorization to travel to the USA.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and the Baltic countries are members of the Visa Waiver program, and if the Travel Promotion Act is approved visitors from those countries will have to pay the $10 fee each time the want to visit the USA.

Why the Travel Promotion Act

The 10% decline in foreign visitors to the US while overseas travelling and tourism is growing has put pressure on the US government to, like many other countries in the world promote itself as a tourist destination. While the US has been busy protecting itself against terrorism, by fighting wars and strengthening immigration control, other countries spend millions of dollars to promote themselves as visitor friendly tourist destinations.

With the Travel Promotion Act would allow the US to establish a promotion program for tourism in the USA. The TPA would be financed by the $10 fee for Visa Waiver visitors and an equal amount paid by the private sector. Optimists suggest that the TPA would create 40 000 new jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue.  

According to the US Travel Association who sponsors the bill, international travel to the US declined by 10% the first quarter of 2009 and despite a weak dollar and 48 million people in the world doing long distance travel to tourist destinations US had 633 000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than in 2000, remaining below pre-9/11 numbers of visitors for the seventh consecutive year.

Is a smart, global marketing campaign enough to increase the number of visitors to the USA? Probably not, there need to be an honest change in the US attitude towards foreigners and some serious introspection on what US really has to offer to a modern tourist that has been around the most popular destinations.  World renowned tourist destinations make visitors feel genuinely welcome and they have something to offer to the visitor looking for relaxation or adventure.

 US nature is not unique, mountains, deserts, forests and coasts are everywhere.  The infrastructure in a big tourist state such as Florida is below what the European tourist expects from a developed country. Interstate roads with pot holes and ripped up asphalt, crazy traffic solutions, cars on the road that are not safe, motorcyclists driving around without helmets. The US food culture is infamous and visitors to the US are constantly reminded about what having to many pizzas can do to a human body.  The view of the beautiful sand and water of the beach is far too often blocked by blobs of flabby flesh.

Why look at that when you can go to a Greek beach eat wonderful healthy food and enjoy the view of Greek goddesses and gods walking the beach.  

The amusement parks might be popular amongst Americans but for a foreign visitor they are merely a constructed, plastic, produced, experience based on charging everyone for everything.  Walking the streets of Rome or Paris is for free and it is genuine.  And again, the amusement parks are filled with flabby people dressed in children’s clothes slurping and burping from huge buckets of sodas.  Who would not rather sip a glass of red wine in a French bistro next to a well dressed, beautiful Parisian couple.  

Friendliness has to be genuine, in the US hotel chains has taken over the family run hotel. Instead of being greeted by the third generation owner that will not hesitate to help you with everything you need and poor you a cup of real homemade coffee in a US chain hotel you are welcomed by an uneducated, uninterested person who is there only for the low salary. If you ask about nearby attractions they normally answer that they do not know because they are too lazy for answering or because they do not know anything.  The poor excuse for this bad service, lack of charm hotel experience they offer is the questionannaire they want you to fill in after a stay, how was the service bla, bla. We all know they throw them out and never read them anyways.

In other words, before any big dollar campaigns are commenced, US should consider some serious introspection and also benchmarking. Greece and Thailand does not attract tourists because they use cool advertising bureaus, they have something to offer, which is genuine and attractive.

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