by Loren G. Edelstein | October 05, 2017
Many predicted a rough year for inbound international tourism, but those dire predictions have not materialized, according to Christopher Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, the tourism marketing organization. During an informal breakfast with media in New York City yesterday, Thompson talked about the multifaceted responsibility of marketing the United States to inbound travelers around the world. Following are highlights from that discussion.
 
Have the views of the Trump administration made it more challenging to market the U.S. to inbound international travelers?
 
The new administration's focus is on security, and that should be the number-one priority of any government. But travel has the amazing ability to transcend politics.
 
We are charged by law to communicate accurate and timely travel policy. Most of the conversation has been about separating perception vs. reality. And the truth is, very little has changed as to how we welcome people to the United States. 
 
Travel is about three things: the destinations themselves, the experiences you can have there and the people themselves. Nothing about any of those three things has changed - they all are better than they have ever been, and the people in particular are as welcoming as they've ever been.
 
Have we seen a "Trump slump" in the travel segment?
 
There was a lot of conversation around that in the first part of the year. Some leading indicators were predicting we would se double-digit declines in inbound international tourism; those never materialized. The concerns, in most cases, were about changes that never took place. So, all the dire predictions really haven't proved to be true. What has changed is security is a higher priority.
 
What markets are most vulnerable to a decline in tourism business?
 
Most people would point to Mexico, but actually travel between the two countries is still strong. 
 
Some have said the U.S. is perceived as "unwelcoming" to international visitors. How do you address that charge?
 
We understand that security is the number-one priority. But it doesn't mean that security and welcome are mutual exclusive. If we are storytellers to our core, our job is to tell the world about the most immersive experiences the United States has to offer. We need to - as Marriott International's president, Arne Sorenson, has said - "market the welcome." One of our campaigns, called One Big Welcome, invites people across the U.S. to share their passion for their destinations with the world. I invite anyone to be a part of this effort.
 
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