ETC launches agent-friendly ad campaign

NEW YORK -- Travel agents will loom large in a new "Visit Europe" promotion the 31-nation European Travel Commission here launched in March with a print campaign in top U.S. markets.

With about 85% of European stays booked through professionals, "travel agents remain extremely important to our recovery," said ETC chairman Einar Gustavsson. "Their welfare is of crucial interest to our members."

To wit, the advertisements suggest consumers book through travel agents, who also will be informed when the campaign begins appearing in their immediate areas.

In addition, specialists accredited by ETC member tourist boards will be highlighted on the Web site.

Television spots are set to begin airing in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia early in April.

The timing is crucial; visits to Europe normally jump 50% to 60% in March and April, said Gustavsson.

In a strategy shift, the television and print ads primarily will target repeat visitors.

"We've shifted the focus away from newcomers," Gustavsson added. "We feel people who have already been to Europe are more easily convinced to return."

In another development, Gustavsson said that by year-end the Baltic nation of Latvia would become the second former Soviet republic to join the ETC. Estonia joined in 1998.

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