WASHINGTON -- It's
only seven minutes long, but the travel industry and the U.S.
government hope it will go a long way toward conveying a simple
The message comes
in the form of video produced by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that
focuses on the ordinary people and places that create the fabric of
America. The video will welcome international visitors arriving at
Filmed in cities
and small towns around the country, the video, entitled "Welcome:
Portraits of America," took center stage at an event here on Oct.
22, where copies were presented to representatives from the
departments of State and Homeland Security. Both departments intend
to play it at federal inspection areas at U.S. airports.
and Bush Intercontinental in Houston will be among the first
airports to feature the video.
Images from the
video will be incorporated into welcoming posters and banners at
U.S. embassies and
consulates around the world will receive copies of the video, which
could be played in waiting areas.
The video, which
was produced at no cost to the government, is part of a cooperative
effort between the travel industry and the government.
It is a product of
"Secure Borders, Open Doors," a strategy jointly announced in
January 2006 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The strategy, also
referred to as the Rice-Chertoff Initiative, is designed to bolster
border security while encouraging inbound tourism to the
contends that the U.S. share of the world's inbound travel has
declined at least 35% since 1992. The decline particularly
accelerated after 9/11. Since the attacks, the U.S. government's
efforts to bolster border security have also conveyed an unintended
message that inbound visitors are unwelcome, the travel industry
video is part of an effort to rectify that.
assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland
Security said, "It is very important for people to understand how
welcoming the U.S. is and to appreciate the individuals that make
up the country and how diverse and enthusiastic they can
Baker said the
video was well done.
does many things well, but displaying imagination is not something
you'd expect the government to do well," Baker said. "But it is
something that Disney has always done superbly."
of America" is the work of Disney videographer Federico Tio and his
crew. They traveled by mobile home from Seattle to New York,
visiting hundreds of cities and towns along the way.
During filming, Tio
said he knew the film would be shown at airports but was surprised
to hear that it would also be used at U.S. government offices
"I honestly didn't
know the extent of the project," said Tio, who was born in Cuba in
1962 and later became a U.S. citizen. "But we tried to make it
timeless so that it wouldn't look like it was shot in
The video include
no images of Disney parks or characters or any other commercial
entities. The stars are the faces of typical Americans.
"At the very least,
I hope that when people arrive after their long flights to the U.S.
that we can start off with the right impression of who Americans
are and the fact that we are an open-minded, welcoming people,"
said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, who
spearheaded the project. "It is not easy to do that in a video, but
I think this one comes pretty close to getting it
However, the video
alone isn't enough to fully convey the welcome message to inbound
visitors, said Rasulo, who also serves as chairman of the Travel
Industry Association. Promoting the U.S. is crucial, too, he
The travel industry
believes the Travel Industry Promotion Act will achieve that
Two versions of the
legislation, which would create a $100 million to $200 million
inbound marketing campaign, are currently pending in the House
(H.R. 3232) and the Senate (S. 1661). Congress could vote this year
on the legislation, which has growing bipartisan support.
contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].