Travel and tourism are a critical component in attracting investors, says Christopher Thompson, who is in charge of promoting travel to the US. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
How does promotion of travel and tourism fit into the USA’s overall development model? We have created a public private partnership in the United States at the national level. It has been a long time coming. I have been business for more than 30 years promoting destinations around the US. It would not be possible without the commitment of the government in recognising the potential of travel and tourism.
It is the largest service exports and its promotion means more jobs and economic development. As also it is an opportunity to promote the US as a top travel destination.
What lessons you will give to Indian policymakers on the use of the PPP model? First and foremost, a public-private-partnership model can work only with shared vision on what you are trying to accomplish. Second, there has to be shared planning to get to that end point. In the end these will result in trust in the ability of what the private sector can bring to the table in conjunction with what the government has as asset and real opportunity to contribute. I can tell you that’s what been the success of what we have been doing at the US.
Apart from creating infrastructure, what are the other areas on which the government should focus to promote tourism? Certainly to maintain the infrastructure and maintain the entry policy of welcoming people into the country. Other than that, our government has resources in the market through the embassies, through commercial services that have relations with businesses and, as in our case, with the travel and tourism industry. Our job is to be the primary story teller of what there is to see in the US.
According the World Bank, India remains a difficult place to do business. This also affects India’s image as a travel destination. How do we reverse this? This has been an ongoing topic of debate in the United States as well. I would like to say that anything related to economic development does not happen without a visit. You can attract people by attracting business. Having the business traveller come to the US is a diplomatic advantage. It allows us to share what we have in the US with the business community.
We realise that no matter what your perceptions are, it improves once you come here. If it was negative, it is less negative; if it is positive, it becomes more positive. Any government should recognise that tourism and business travel are a diplomatic advantage. Anything they can do to support that industry will pay huge dividends as it relates to a two-way flow of people.
Which are the countries you are competing with? We are actively engaged in 33 different markets. Every developed country in the world now understands the benefit of the travel and tourism industry. It is out there telling its story.