Corporation for Travel Promotion bolsters Miami's international growth
By Scott Blake
Miami's tourism industry now has a partner, created by the federal government, in attracting foreign visitors, promising to bolster what already is one of South Florida's growing markets.
The Corporation for Travel Promotion is working to erase the image of America as an unwelcoming place for foreign tourists since heightened security measures following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, CEO Jim Evans told representatives of Greater Miami's tourism industry Monday.
Appearing at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau's 2011 annual meeting and 25th anniversary celebration in Miami Beach, Mr. Evans said his organization recently started its marketing efforts after Congress established it last year to promote foreign travel to the US.
The Washington, DC-based nonprofit corporation's work is expected to complement Greater Miami's growing international tourism business, bureau President and CEO William D. Talbert III told the audience of several hundred people at the New World Center.
Miami already is one of the nation's strongholds for foreign tourism, with 48% of total visitors to the area coming from outside the US, Mr. Talbert said.
From January through July, Greater Miami drew 3,818,888 foreign visitors — putting it on pace for 6,546,665 foreign visitors for the entire year. That would be an 8% increase over 6,060,000 foreign visitors last year, according to the bureau's newly released 2010-11 annual report.
Leisure and hospitality is one of South Florida's few growing industries, posting 15 consecutive months of increased employment, Mr. Talbert said.
In August, for example, 107,500 people were employed in Greater Miami's leisure and hospitality sector, up from 105,700 a year earlier. The employment gains were helped by a strong summer for the industry, with hotel occupancy more than 73% from June through August, up 11.2% from the same period last year, according to bureau statistics.
Meanwhile, the bureau has been lobbying for federal legislation that is expected to grant Brazilians tourist visa waiver status. The change would eliminate inconveniences and long delays in obtaining visas for Brazilians wishing to visit the US.
Already, Brazil is South Florida's most lucrative foreign tourist market, with about 550,000 Brazilians spending $1.1 billion a year here, Mr. Talbert said.
The Corporation for Travel Promotion is expected to aid such efforts. It was created under the federal Travel Promotion Act of 2009 and is designed to combine the expertise and resources of the private sector with the accountability of the federal government.
As of this month, the corporation has received financial commitments from the private sector to qualify for $22.2 million in matching federal contributions to carry out the first nationally-coordinated international travel marketing program for the US.
No tax dollars are used to fund the corporation's marketing program. The private sector is required to cover at least 50% of the program's budget through a combination of cash and in-kind contributions.
For each dollar the private sector contributes, an additional dollar is contributed through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. That program is funded by travelers from countries that do not require a visa who pay a small fee once every two years to visit the US.
"This first influx of funds," Mr. Evans said, "will enable us to build and begin promoting the extraordinary power of "Brand USA' in select markets around the world."
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