Obama’s appearance on screen at Pow Wow is a clear indication that years of intense lobbying and hard work have paid off, writes Robin Searle
Two years ago, delegates at the US Travel Association’s International Pow Wow conference were treated to a message from astronauts on the International Space Station.
This year, the spacemen were trumped by the President himself.
In itself, the recorded message from Barack Obama wasn’t particularly enlightening, and you feel the rallying call he gave to the US travel industry about the role it had to play in job and wealth creation could easily have been beamed with a few tweaks to a corresponding gathering in the manufacturing, agriculture or finance communities.
But really, the content of his speech didn’t matter.
Any number of past presidents will have addressed conventions in the manufacturing, agriculture or finance sectors.
But Obama’s appearance on screen to the travel industry was a clear indication that years of intense lobbying and hard work had paid off and the US administration really was taking it seriously.
Brand USA, the public-private marketing organisation created after the President signed the Travel Promotion Act, is launching its first ad campaign in the UK, Canada and Japan next week with a three-month budget of $12.3 million.
The new adverts, featuring an original song by Grammy award-winner Rosanne Cash, may not be to everyone’s taste.
But the use of music to showcase the diversity of the destination is a smart move, and the content of the adverts may well connect with UK travellers who had perhaps been allowed to forget that the US offers so much more than theme parks and big cities.
Gone are the days when the US was criticised for having a smaller central overseas marketing budget than Fiji.
And with over £2 million of that initial three-month budget earmarked for the UK, there is a real opportunity for US specialist agents and operators to ride the wave in the run-in to the peak season.
It remains to be seen what impact a change of government in the US this autumn would have on the current positive momentum.
But for now, having at last recognised the value of travel and tourism and decided to address its dwindling market share, the US is putting its money where its mouth is.