TIA to lobby for U.S. tourism marketing entity

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WASHINGTON -- The Travel Industry Association of America said it intends to lobby Congress this fall to approve legislation that would create a public/private sector-funded tourism marketing entity to promote travel in the U.S. for domestic and international visitors.

"I envision a national tourism marketing corporation that one day will boost domestic and international marketing exponentially," said TIA president William Norman, during a speech before the Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism.

"I foresee marketing partnerships at home that will create unequaled opportunities for organizations large and small," he said.

In recent years, TIA has lobbied Congress to fund a proposed public/private sector entity called the U.S. National Tourism Organization to promote U.S. travel to inbound visitors, but that effort stalled.

However, Norman indicated that TIA has something different in mind this time.

Norman said the proposed marketing corporation would be modeled after similar entities already in operation, such as Visit Florida, a marketing program created in 1996.

Though it receives what Norman called "substantial public funding," he added that "its lifeblood is direct private-sector investment from travel industry partners.

Norman said California and Canada also have had success emulating the Visit Florida model.

"This is a proven model," he said. "We're talking about a new breed of public/private corporation that is as far from a government bureaucracy as can be imagined. It works, runs and produces like a lean, hungry private-sector business does."

Norman said the U.S. is "the only major industrialized country" whose national government is not involved in a tourism promotion partnership with private industry.

Meanwhile, Norman said, the U.S. is losing market share to other destinations that pour funding into tourism promotion.

"That's why I invite you to join us in a mission to convince Congress and the [Bush] administration why a national tourism marketing corporation is important," Norman said.

"And I want to emphasize that this is an entity that would promote domestic as well as international tourism."

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