Global minded: TIA is set to expand

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The Travel Industry Association is set to expand internationally as it enters the new millennium. The only question is: to what degree?

In a report that will be presented to TIA board members during Pow Wow this week, the consulting firm of Booz-Allen & Hamilton will offer its advice on the future direction of the association. Included in that report will be recommendations on how much bigger the 2,500-member organization should get, where it should focus its energies and how much of a push it should make to expand beyond its handful of international members.

Pow Wow logoTIA national chairman Chris Bowers -- who describes the report as a "pause to take at look at what the future is going to be" -- said final decisions on an "action plan" probably will be made by the board July 29 in San Diego. TIA officials, though, already seem inclined to make some sort of drive for international members who promote travel to the U.S.

Ray Lutz, TIA's senior vice president for marketing and member programs, said the organization has been "pretty parochial" in the past. But that doesn't make sense at a time when acquisitions and alliances are blurring worldwide boundaries, he said, adding, "It is all global now."

The international outreach won't change TIA's mission: to promote travel to and from the U.S. But TIA concluded its future is not in domestic marketing. "While we would never ignore promoting travel within the U.S., the emerging markets are obviously where we see tremendous potential," said Bowers, who also is United Airlines' senior vice president for North America.

Toward that end, TIA is forging ahead with the new $2.5 million international marketing plan its board approved late last year. Already this year, TIA is:

  • Going outside of the U.S. -- and its own trade shows -- to offer educational seminars that promote the U.S. market. In February, TIA offered a seminar, complete with Broadway performances, at a foreign trade show in Mexico City. A second seminar is in the works for this fall, probably in Asia.
  • Committing itself to participate in six international trade shows before year's end -- two apiece in Europe, Asia and Latin America -- although it hasn't specifically picked which shows those will be.
  • TIA kicked off that effort in March when it ran the Visit USA Press Center at what is billed as the largest international travel trade show in the world: ITB in Berlin.

  • Creating three international marketing manager positions, one each for Asia, Europe and Latin America. They will establish connections and give TIA a personal presence at virtually all Visit USA Committee meetings worldwide.
  • "This is easily a tenfold increase in our level of involvement and participation and visibility in these international markets," said Mark Hoy, director of international marketing.

  • Establishing a manager of international research, who will gather data and analyses on international travel.
  • Member-only services to be made available on the Web will include an inventory of international data producers; reports on specific countries, including historical trends and forecasts, and an interactive database so users can get information to make their own comparisons.

  • Setting June 2000 as the target date for a planned "super Web site" that would connect travel buyers and sellers worldwide. However, the association still is working out exactly what a "super Web site" would entail.
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