Brand USA: Meet me in America!

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(eTN) – In a concluding report, eTN shares the final chapter of its interview with Tom Garzilli, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Brand USA, a public-private partnership that launched Am

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(eTN) – In a concluding report, eTN shares the final chapter of its interview with Tom Garzilli, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Brand USA, a public-private partnership that launched America’s first nationally-coordinated tourism marketing effort.

Previously, eTN talked about the focus of Brand USA as well as its activities. In this final segment of that interview, Garzilli addresses the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions (MICE) market.

eTN: There are two more markets we are interested in covering with you. One is the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions market, referred to as MICE. Most of America’s cities have fantastic convention facilities. With international meetings being such big business, I know Brand USA participates at IMEX, WTM, ITB, and a lot of these types of travel trade shows. How does Brand USA promote the US as a potential meeting venue?

Tom Garzilli: Again you touched upon a really important subject. Brand USA does some outreach around the MICE market, but what’s clear to us from a lot of the feedback we have been getting from our partners and stakeholders, is that they really would like us to do more. To that I would say, we are going to be doing more. We are also going to look for ways to take more advantage of MICE shows and other messaging opportunities around that segment of the market. We’re doing some work now, but we certainly can do more, and we will be.

eTN: It looks like it is a challenge in this market. Many times when you just look at the travel industry alone, most major travel shows are not held in the United States because of visa restrictions. The United States really cannot compete with destinations like Berlin and Singapore because of visa restrictions to potential participants. It means the US may not be able to compete when it comes to global events. Do you see that as a potential problem?

Garzilli: I think we have a certain appeal to certain groups. I think on the incentives side and on the meeting side, we compete pretty well. For business, I think we need to go out there, do more outreach, and learn how to tell our story better. We’ll just continue to do that.

eTN: A lot of the feedback we’ve been getting in general when it comes to travel to the United States is that the quality and the service factors are quite low. If you look for instance at hotels, I’m a Hyatt member, and the service you receive at Hyatt hotels in Thailand, Europe, or even South America, for example, compared to that in America, it seems the US is a step down from other countries and does not appear to even try to compete. It’s the same for airline services. There is no comparison between say Etihad or Emirates and United or Delta. What do you think the US should do to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to service?

Garzilli: I would say that I think our experiences that we offer to travelers is at a satisfaction level so that when they leave our country, it is quite good and quite high. I don’t see that as the challenge for us. In terms of attracting international visitations, I think it’s about just getting out and continuing to lead the charge in terms of inspiration and activation. I think our level of service and our level of product is quite good.

eTN: In the United States there has been a lot a talk recently about the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] market, specifically with all the debates in recent years about same-sex marriage and equality. How important is this market for the United States – not only the wedding market, but possibly also reaching out to the global LGBT community and telling them that the US is a welcoming market for them?

Garzilli: Just doing what you are saying is important – letting travelers know that we are a welcoming market, and we are very diverse. I don’t think there is anywhere else on the planet that is more diverse than we are, in terms of experience and in terms of our welcoming. So just telling our story is what we need to do, along with continuing to be open and to reach out as far as we can, as much as we can.

eTN: Politics aside, it looks like Russians are still very much interested in traveling to the US. Is there anything from a tourism perspective that the Russian industry should know about with regard to selling travel to the US?

Garzilli: First of all, what you said is exactly right – we don’t worry about the politics. We are interested in anybody that is interested in coming here. Again, we do have programs that reach out to Russian consumers, and we have participated in programs there. I would welcome conversations with tour operators and travel sellers from Russia, because I know that it is a growing market for the US.

eTN: Is Brand USA working with Guam on the Festival of Pacific Arts that they will be hosting in 2016? It will probably be one of the biggest events they have hosted, and they are building their 2020 projections on this event which they are already actively planning.

Garzilli: I was not aware of this, but Guam itself is an important territory. I’m sure that they are in touch with us, and I’ll check in to that and find out.

eTN: Thank you, Tom, for giving us so much of your time, we truly appreciate it, and we know our readers will benefit.

Garzilli: Same here. Thank you very much.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.