by Terence Baker | November 01, 2003

Looking to reverse a post-9/11 decline in visitors from overseas, the U.S. Travel & Tourism Promotion Advisory Board, newly formed by Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, held its first meeting in September on Ellis Island in New York City. In attendance were executives from U.S.-based hotel firms and convention and visitor bureaus.
   Manuel J. Cortez, advisory board member and president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, suggested the board should try to bolster its $50 million budget by establishing public-private partnerships. Ideally, he said, the board might be able to match funds to be used for local and regional tourism boards’ marketing efforts.
   Richard Champley, a senior market research analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, agreed. “Strong relationships between private investors and public bodies” will lay the groundwork for the board’s public relations campaigns, he said.
   Just a 1 percent increase in tourism to the United States could generate $11.9 billion dollars in revenue, $1.2 billion in federal taxes and the creation of 154,000 jobs, said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of marketing for the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Industry Association and general manager of the incentive trade show International Powwow.
   The temporary suspension of complicated new federal visa rules for inbound visitors was crucial to the board’s cause, said Rick Webster, the TIA’s director of government affairs. “Foreigners thought the welcome mat had been pulled,” he said. “Now we can set the proper tone.”
   The board plans to convene once a month, targeting travelers from Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom in its initial efforts.