The United States has traditionally taken a hands-off marketing approach when it came to promoting itself as an international tourist destination. While the number of foreign travelers visiting America has gone up in the last decade, its share of the global tourism market has waned.
Ken Salazar, U.S. secretary of the interior, wrote in a recent editorial for the San Diego Union-Tribune that 103,000 jobs were opened up in the American tourism industry in 2011, thanks to an 8.1 percent increase in international and domestic tourism spending. He added that the almost 62 million international visitors in America last year put more than $153 billion into the U.S. economy, and because of that, tourism is the country's top service export.
While at first glance those figures may seem synonymous with success, they are all relative. Salazar said that in 2000, 17.2 percent of all global travel took place in the United States. Just 10 years later, however, he explained that number dropped to approximately 11.6 percent. The increased travel revenue in recent years shouldn't be looked at as an achievement, just as its weakened presence in the global travel market shouldn't be conceived as failure. Rather, as Salazar noted, both are a sign of growth and unrealized potential.
Geoff Freeman, COO of the U.S. Travel Association, explained to The New York Times that the decline can be attributed to a feeling of unwelcomeness by foreign trip planners. To revive America's appeal to these parties, the government established a nonprofit marketing organization called Brand USA.
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