Discover America project launches campaign

WASHINGTON: Several top travel industry executives have launched a multi-million dollar new campaign to encourage more people overseas to visit the US, arguing that more foreign visitors not only are good for US businesses, but also foster better international relations.

WASHINGTON: Several top travel industry executives have launched a multi-million dollar new campaign to encourage more people overseas to visit the US, arguing that more foreign visitors not only are good for US businesses, but also foster better international relations.

The new Discover America Partnership, launched last week, includes Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; J.W. Marriott of the Marriott International, Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels; Roger Dow of the Travel Industry Association of America; Stephan Anderson of the National Restaurant Association, Stevan Porter of the Intercontinental Hotel Group, and several others.

Geoff Freeman, Discover America's executive director, said the initial efforts of the campaign will be to explain the importance of foreign visitors to lawmakers, the media, public policy analysts, and others, using both earned and paid media. Later, the group plans to offer specific proposals on boosting the number of foreign visitors.

With the current US "global war on terror," many lawmakers are more concerned about making sure the US is secure from terrorists than making the process of visiting the US easier, Freeman said.

"What we want to do is run a very aggressive advocacy campaign to show there are rewards with travel, that's it not an either/or - that you can have security and travel at the same time," said Freeman. "The first phase is explaining the why. Why does travel and tourism help with public diplomacy? Why is America stronger with more visitors?"

Though some details of the campaign are still to be worked out, Fleishman-Hillard will help with PR, while BKSH & Associates and the newly formed Monument Policy Group, run by former Department of Homeland Security official C. Stewart Verdery, will assist with lobbying and government relations.

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