“With domestic tourism more than 60 percent of the U.S. travel industry, we wonder why this took so long.”
This was the author’s comment in an article in the travel business publication Skift in reporting on changes underway at the U.S. Travel Association, known also as US Travel, as the organization shifts to a greater emphasis on domestic travel–travel by U.S. residents within America.
Given the history of US Travel, this should not come entirely as a surprise; after all, its mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States. And for roughly the first three decades of the life of the association—founded in October 1941 by a group of destination tourism officials—that was known as the National Association of Travel Organizations (NATO). Somehow, the NATO acronym never really caught on. We wonder why.
US Travel, which under the leadership of Roger Dow, a senior Marriott sales official who took over as president and CEO in 2005, has regularly surveyed the group’s members (there are currently about 1,300 of them) to take the pulse of the organization and its needs, as well as the U.S. travel industry that it serves. This input has led to restructurings and changes in emphases throughout Dow’s tenure in office.
Early on, Dow’s response to membership feedback led to the departure of a number of senior employees as well as an increased emphasis on government affairs and lobbying. The name of the association—it was known upon Dow’s arrival as the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA)—changed to U.S. Travel Association in 2009, and the government affairs activities of the Travel Business Roundtable were folded into its portfolio. US Travel now has a flourishing PAC and has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Republicans and Democrats.
It was also in March 2009 that President Barack Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act that established Brand USA. Then, two months later, Dow arranged for a White House meeting between a dozen or so travel industry leaders with President Obama—a first for the industry.
Where do we go from here? On the basis of feedback from its membership, US Travel has learned that, or determined to show that, it is time to return to that part of the organization’s mission which stresses its charge to “promote and facilitate increased travel … within the United States.”
Expect to see some restructuring of US Travel in the near future.
* Raymond Loewy’s design firm (Loewy/Snaith) designed this Discover America weathervane symbol, which was selected as DATO’s logo and promotional signature, as it can point in any direction.