In a collaborative venture that the U.S. Travel Association trumpets as the first of its kind, 24 competing U.S. destinations and 26 competing travel companies have donated enough product to finance a month-long effort to stimulate travel within the U.S. this summer and to seed U.S. Travel's future travel promotion initiatives.
"They have all voluntarily donated their product," said Dennis Petroskey, senior vice president of communications at U.S. Travel, which launched the project, Discover America Daily Getaways, last Monday.
Petroskey declined to estimate how much money would eventually be raised, saying it would depend "entirely on how much we're going to be able to sell."
The promotion, available at DailyGetaways.com
, is being sponsored by American Express and runs through June 4. During that time, a different travel brand will post offers and sales each weekday until the inventory is sold out.
Any U.S. resident 18 or older with a major credit card can purchase from the site. Additionally, American Express cardholders are able to bid on packages during weekday auctions that open at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
The first company to post offers on DailyGetaways.com, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, sold out its 1,150 travel deals in 37 minutes. The first auction package, arranged by NYC & Company, offered exclusive access to Fashion Week in New York. It sold for $5,201.
Carlson is offering 517 Country Inns & Suites by Carlson vouchers for $50 per night (each an $80 value) and 50 Radisson vouchers for $80 per night (each a $120 value), which will generate approximately $30,000 for U.S. Travel, assuming all of the items are purchased, Carlson said in a statement.
According to Carlson, the overall Daily Getaways promotion is making nearly $3 million worth of travel product available to consumers. "But the total value of the promotion is even greater and includes the ability to generate buzz about the industry as a whole, generate interest in leisure travel during the summer travel season as well as the ability to further promote existing travel deals and promotions from these leading travel brands on DiscoverAmerica.com," the company said in a statement.
"It is important for the industry to promote itself, and [it is] good timing as the economy begins to show signs of improving and people are traveling more."
Petroskey said all money generated on the site will be spent to promote the industry; it will not be applied to financing the Travel Promotion Act, and he wanted to be clear that the money "is not coming to us for operational purposes."
All the suppliers and organizations that donated product are represented on the U.S. Travel board and thus will have a voice in how the money is ultimately spent. Petroskey said that specific plans for allocating the money raised will be determined at a later date.
In addition to the members' support of U.S. Travel's mission, Petroskey said the recession's impact on the industry also had helped the association unite for a common cause companies and organizations that traditionally compete.
"The challenging environment certainly provided an impetus for people wanting to do something like this together," he said.
At a press conference organized in New York last week to introduce the initiative, Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's president and CEO, said that the spirit of cooperation and collaboration in this attempt to lift the industry out of its doldrums amounted to "one of the most significant consumer promotions ever staged by the travel industry. ... This is the first time the travel industry has come together" in such a way.
The consumer website is powered by American Express, which is marketing the project with online media placements, pay-per-click and search optimization as well as by marketing directly to card members via direct mail, email and statement inserts.
Shane Berry, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Merchant Services, said the concept came together last summer, when "Roger and I were chatting [about] what we can do to stimulate travel in the U.S. in light of the fact that we were starting to see the recession in the rearview mirror. And American Express was also thinking about what we could do to stimulate travel among our card members and our merchants."
He said the objective was to engage as many travel industry suppliers and destinations as possible in promoting travel in the U.S.
"Roger's team took the lead in talking to the various merchants that are participating," Berry said, adding the idea was to figure out not only how to stimulate travel, "but also, how can we raise funds for the U.S. Travel Association?"
U.S. Travel oversaw the initial media launch and will continue to promote the project to the national news media. So far, the promotion has included two full-page ads in USA Today as well as viral marketing via Twitter and Facebook.
The organization also asked the corporate and CVB partners hosting offers on the site to use their own social media, newsletters and press releases to promote the site and its offers.
Chris Heywood, a spokesman for New York's marketing organization, NYC & Company, said, "More than ever, there's just a renewed energy in the whole U.S. with really needing to promote itself better and work more closely to promote the destinations. We need to present a united front."
He said that this year, NYC & Company is starting to work more on similar efforts with competing U.S. destinations.
In addition to New York, participating destinations include Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Among the participating travel companies are Avis, Best Western, Delta, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, United Airlines and Universal Studios. This report appeared in the May 10 issue of Travel Weekly.