My favorite running gag on the
radio program "A Prairie Home Companion" is the public service
announcements produced by the fictitious Ketchup Council extolling
the virtues of that condiment ("Ketchup, for the good times.")
In real life, of
course, there's the Beef Board, the Ad Council, the National Pork
Producers Council, the Florida Citrus Growers and myriad other
collections of businesspeople who join together to promote their
corner of commerce.
These groups focus
primarily on public policy -- that is, they're lobbying
organizations -- but each has also made an impression on the
American public through memorable public relations campaigns like
"A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine" and
"Pork, the other white meat."
I've lately been
wondering: Do we need a Travel Council?
associations, roundtables, organizations and, yes, even a few
groups with council at the end of their name. But by and large,
each works primarily for only a segment of the travel
have gotten much better at working together when their interests
align. Thanks to the newly energized Travel Industry Association
and its lobbying partners, the Travel Business Roundtable and the
World Travel and Tourism Council, our previously fragmented
industry has become more disciplined, speaking with one voice in
Some real progress
has been made, demonstrated most notably when lobbying efforts
brought some rationality to the Western Hemisphere Travel
Initiative. In the end, the industry's victory, like most political
victories, was only partial. There's still much that's untidy about
details of the WHTI in its final form left many stakeholders in the
industry anxious, and rightfully so. There's more fine print about
where, how and when than the traveling consumer would want to sort
through. And the industry is responding to the illogical aspects of
the initiative with fragmented, special-interest efforts to
minimize its anticipated negative effects.
For instance, the
U.S. Virgin Islands launched a "No passport required" campaign,
with the assistance of several prominent tour operators. SuperClubs
and Spirit Vacations are running a promotion offering a rebate
equivalent to the cost of a passport application or renewal.
Marriott and Renaissance are offering a similar program for their
Mexican and Caribbean resorts.
Cruise lines are
fretting over scenarios for potential passport problems. Though no
passport is needed by U.S. citizens returning by sea to a U.S.
port, what if a passenger needs to be repatriated in the middle of
the cruise and flown back to the U.S. from a foreign
offering charters to Mexico on thin margins are worried that they
may end up with too many empty seats after denying boarding to
those showing up for departure without a passport.
Here is where a
Travel Council could send out a very simple, very straightforward
marketing message to neutralize all the confusing details and
footnotes in the WHTI. And that message is: Americans, why delay?
Get your passport today.
industry campaign that simply says (in some clever, engaging and
elegant fashion), "GET A PASSPORT!" would negate the need to try to
convey the complicated WHTI details and, as a bonus, have the
long-term benefit of creating a nation ready to go anywhere. Such a
promotion could lift the entire industry.
Of course, no one
really needs to create a special organization for this or similar
as-needed messages. Existing associations, roundtables,
organizations and councils can accomplish the same thing. All
that's needed is a Leadership Committee, composed of association
leaders, that has the necessary support and funding to create the
Western Hemisphere Passport Initiative.