We are delighted that the Commerce Dept. and its friends in the travel industry are pleased with the results of an ad campaign in London designed to get people over there to come over here.

For those who are new to this game, its called tourism marketing.

As reported in our news pages today, some public- and private-sector officials were mildly surprised that people in England saw the ads, remembered them and came away with favorable impressions of the U.S. and the first inklings of desire to see it up close and personal.

Buoyed by the positive results, U.S. tourism marketers are optimistic about doing more.

Whats especially noteworthy -- in fact, unprecedented -- about all this, of course, is the use of a few million dollars of federal money.

The industry has been telling Uncle Sam for as long as we can remember that the U.S. needs, and would benefit from, a federally supported marketing campaign to lure foreign visitors to this country.

Congress eventually wrote a check two years ago, but in a sad series of events, the appropriation kept shrinking until the amount available was barely enough for a pilot program.

According to a professional evaluation of the ad campaign, it could result in bringing an additional 2 million U.K. visitors to this country. If each of those visitors spends a mere $3 here, the $6 million ad campaign will have paid for itself.

The simple fact is: Tourism marketing works. It works for Greece, it works for Mexico, it works for New Zealand. And it works for us, too. 

Heres to self-help 

If youre looking for signs of intelligent life among the major legacy airlines this summer, you might find some at Continental, which is employing an interesting strategy in transatlantic markets.

Over the past month the airline has inaugurated transatlantic nonstops from its Newark hub to Bristol, England; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Hamburg, Germany. In a week it will add Berlin.

Last year at about this time it was adding Edinburgh, Scotland and Oslo, Norway.

This is an interesting list. On some of these routes, such as Bristol and Belfast, Continental is a pioneer, with the first U.S. nonstops ever offered. In others, it has only limited competition. In short, it has found some markets where it stands a chance of earning decent returns.

We are accustomed to bashing the airlines for their endless complaining about high labor costs, high taxes, the price of fuel and the insensitivity of the federal government, so it is only fair to acknowledge their creative self-help activities from time to time.

We singled out Continental, but it is one of several airlines that has produced innovative ideas about where to put its airplanes. Such airlines deserve a nod of respect and our wishes for a successful summer.

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