PCAH and the Department of Commerce Co-Host Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange to Address Tourism Opportunities
The Administration announced in 2012 an ambitious national tourism plan that would double the number of international visitors to the US by 2021. This potentially huge influx of travelers presents a broad range of opportunities highlighted and addressed at the 2014 Cultural Heritage Tourism Exchange by more than 100 experts and thought leaders from across the country. Speakers and participants offered critical feedback to local, state and federal leaders through two-days of sessions on how to successfully take advantage of this developing tourism market.
Co-hosted by U.S. Department of Commerce and Partners in Tourism chaired by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH), the Exchange focused in particular on the opportunities, issues, and programs affecting this nation’s rich cultural, recreational, and heritage destination and assets. Cultural heritage tourism is a proven strategy and a key contributor to the National Travel and Tourism Policy’s ability to attract international visitors, generate potential jobs and spur economic growth in communities across the country.
In her welcome to the delegates, President’s Committee Executive Director Rachel Goslins said, “What makes it all work is the conscious investment in the arts and humanities and cultural heritage of that place. And that’s what we’re all here to talk about today. What drives us is telling a story, our story. Using the incredible assets of this vast amazing country to tell the story of America, to visitors and ourselves. There is no other sector that does that.”
If there was any doubt about the dynamic growth potential of the travel and tourism industry, Ken Hyatt, Acting Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Commerce cited the most recent research saying “travel and tourism is the fastest growing export sector of the economy growing nine percent in 2013.” He reminded participants that cultural heritage tourism plays an important role in the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, and the reason became very clear in the latest research that Randy Cohen, Vice President for Research, Americans for the Arts shared with the audience: “arts and culture is 3.25 percent of the nation’s economy compared to travel and tourism, which is 2.9 percent.”
Chris Thompson, President & CEO, Brand USA and Dr. Stephanie Toothman, Associate Director, Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science, National Park Service both offered complimentary views of their roles in travel and tourism. Thompson sees Brand USA, which is the marketing partner in the Travel and Tourism strategy in this light, “We are storytellers. There many compelling things in our gateway cities and attractions, but what are the most authentic experiences represented by your sector? Tell those stories too.” Toothman expanded on this idea of authenticity later in the day when she remarked “Inclusivity and ownership are key to successful stewardship, Interpretation is an opportunity to raise awareness and empower people to share their stories. Interpretation and promotions must be mindful of the 360 degree points of view, a broader perspective creates a better tourism product and is attractive to a wider audience.”
In addition to questions raised by participants with these speakers, a multi-level dialogue in the Exchange’s peer-to-peer discussions served as catalysts for strategic solutions and actions to pursue at the state and local level to complement the national tourism strategy. As chair of Partners in Tourism, the PCAH will be convening its 29 federal and non-profit members to address the priorities from the Exchange and focusing on how to advance and enhance the national travel and tourism strategy.