Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange Builds Support for President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange Builds Support for President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy

In response to President Obama’s January executive order announcing new administrative initiatives to increase travel and tourism in and to the United States, the second Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange was held May 3- 4, 2012 at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Recognizing that cultural, historic and natural resources are essential to telling America’s story, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the U.S. Department of Commerce with the other members of Partners in Tourism sponsored this national meeting of cultural tourism practitioners and the public and private sector leaders, who are charged by the President to develop and implement a new national travel and tourism strategy.  

Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange Builds Support for President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy Ken Hyatt, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services U.S. Department of Commerce, speaks at the Cultural Hertiage Tourism Exchange about the National Travel and Tourism Strategy. He cited the important role cultural and historic assets play in why people travel to and within the U.S. and to this travel blueprint.  Photo by Larry Wells
Speaking at the Exchange were representatives from the Departments of Commerce and Interior and the private sector, who spoke in general terms about the purpose and implications of the national travel and tourism strategy, which had yet to be announced, and responded to questions about the role of the cultural and heritage sector and the federal government in the roll-out and execution of the strategy. Tourism is a jobs creator with some “32 visitors equaling one new job” remarked Robert Lynch, CEO of American for the Arts, and this is the primary goal of this new effort—jobs.  Lynch was recently appointed to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which will offer guidance on the implementation of the national tourism strategy, and he will be an advocate for the interests of the cultural heritage tourism sector. 

Driving the campaign to attract these visitors is Brand USA, which made its official debut at the end of April with its new video “Land of Dreams” by Roseanne Cash. The music is the message in this video, and it underscores that the arts are how Brand USA is telling America’s story. At the Exchange, Michael Carroll, Brand USA’s Director of Partner Marketing, explained that using “the American flag, red, white and blue, Statute of Liberty and other iconic images” in marketing campaigns actually made audiences less receptive  because they think they have seen it all—“Vegas, Disney World and New York City”.  So Brand USA created a campaign to show America through a different lens and “push people to places off the beaten path”.

The cultural and heritage tourism practitioners at the Exchange representing federal, state and local tourism entities, arts, humanities and heritage organizations, as well as government leaders focused their efforts on identifying priorities and actions that would add value and support Brand USA and the national travel and tourism strategy.  As one participant remarked, “culture and history are the competitive edge for every community and a lens for visitors to experience America differently.”  Practitioners also recognized that for second and third tier destinations and rural areas in particular, the arts, humanities and heritage are the means for drawing visitors “off the beaten path.”

Shortly after the Exchange, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar   and Secretary of Commerce John Bryson announced the National Tourism and Travel Strategy. The goal of this blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S. is to welcome 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021, which is more than a 50 percent increase over current number of overseas visitors. As chair of Partners in Tourism, the PCAH will be convening its 29 federal and non-profit members to address the priorities from the Exchange, focusing on how these can advance and enhance the national travel and tourism strategy.