American Tourism Society, a destination marketing organization
focused on former Iron Curtain countries and the Middle East, plans
to play a larger role in facilitating tourism development in those
The ATS counts 64
members, including the national tourism organizations of 31
countries and regions.
To be more effective
in helping members realize their tourism potential, the ATS needs
to grow and it needs more funding, said Phil Otterson, chairman of
the organization's strategic planning committee.
Otterson, who is also
executive vice president of external affairs and global alliances
for Tauck World Discovery, said the ATS board of directors has
approved a broad plan to grow the organization, enhance its funding
and operate a regular schedule of educational programs in the U.S.
Otterson said his
committee will reconvene after the new year to refine details and
set dates for each step along the way.
Clearly, he said, the
first step is to find the funding "to be aggressive about doing our
Fundraising will be a
three-pronged project: The ATS will launch a membership drive,
solicit candidates to act as sponsors for specific projects and
seek government grants.
resources, Otterson said the ATS could launch seminars "for every
segment of members and potential members" and for members in the
U.S. as well as overseas.
For example, the ATS
could offer a seminar for tour operators in a "transformational"
destination, Otterson said. The seminar would provide information
on how to market to Americans and how to deliver on the product to
create satisfied customers. This would include some education about
American culture so the travel seller could more effectively
respond to travelers' habits and expectations.
The idea of operating
an ongoing seminar program has been bubbling at the ATS for a
In the spring of
2005, the group operated a full-day seminar in Gdansk, Poland, for
ministers of economic development representing Poland and the
Otterson called that
session a prototype for projects under discussion now.
Also, he said,
training would go "both ways," with Americans attending sessions
led by their overseas counterparts.
The purpose would be
to teach U.S. operators and others how to do business in specific
operators need to familiarize themselves with legal challenges,
cultural and political barriers, whom they need to know at the
destination and how to make those contacts.
organization has this raison d'etre," Otterson said. "There's
altruism in this."
However, the ATS is
not well-known. Otterson said that most
nonmembers don't even know that the ATS exists. That has to change
for the group to be effective, Otterson said.
The ATS was born in
1987 as the American-Soviet Tourism Society. At the time, the
organization protested price hikes by Intourist, the official
tourism organization of the Soviet Union, when product quality was
declining and Intourist was set to sell direct in the
After the Soviet
Union dissolved, the ATS regrouped and turned its attention to
marketing for regions and countries with tourism
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine
Godwin at [email protected].