By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — Having been born and raised, educated and employed here in my beloved hometown of Niagara Falls and having had the amazing opportunity to travel the world, come back home and serve my community in too many capacities to count, I must admit, I was more than a little excited by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Monday announcement at Old Fort Niagara that Brand USA will represent and promote our region.
But, at the same time, I must confess, I’m a whole lot less than happy about our continuing capacity to ungratefully look our gift horses in the mouth, then wonder why we so often wind up getting kicked to the curb, not by the rescuing herd, but by our own shortsightedness.
Fortunately for us, our untiring best friend in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., noticing that Niagara Falls had been left off Brand USA’s promotional materials, wrote to them, pointing out that we and certain other key Western New York destinations, should be included in their mission, “to encourage increased international visitation to the United States and to grow America’s share of the global travel market.”
In doing so, they “aim to bring millions of new international visitors who spend billions of dollars to the United States, creating tens of thousands of new American jobs.”
And so, as a result of his noble efforts, his colleague, another one of our best friends appeared here in the region as if on a white horse Monday bearing substantial actual gifts, sweet music for our sore ears.
But, unfortunately, it seems we could be well on our way to another self-inflicted, all expenses paid one-way trip to the curb again if we don’t take full advantage of the gifts this horse is bearing; those ever-present, petty political fangs appear to be ready to sink their teeth into this prize Palomino.
We have not had in decades, a team like we have now in Washington, D.C and Albany including Shumer, and Gillibrand in the U.S. Senate, Brian Higgins, and of course our dear friend Louise Slaughter in the U.S. House; and George Maziarz in the state Senate and John Ceretto in the state Assembly; with powerful, passionate friends like these, and a strong tourism market how can Niagara not prosper?
Good question, but given our propensity to over emphasize politics, and almost completely disregard economics, we’ll figure out a way to stay right down here on the ground, scratching like chickens instead of accepting a golden opportunity to soar like eagles unless we put aside some of our relatively petty differences and get to work.
Take a close look at Brand USA:
Governed by an 11-member board of heavy-hitter directors, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, each member brings unique expertise in diverse geographical regions and sectors of the entire travel industry including:
n Board Chair Caroline Beteta is the lead spokesperson for California’s $95 billion travel industry and serves as the president and CEO of Visit California.
n David Lim, vice-chair of the Board and Amtrak’s Assistant Vice-President of the Acela Brand.
n Daniel Halpern, president/CEO and co-founder of Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., a multi-state food service company.
n George Fertitta, head of New York City’s marketing and tourism organization.
n Randy A. Garfield, president of the Walt Disney Travel Company and Executive Vice President of Disney Destination’s $10 billion Worldwide Sales and Travel Operations.
n Tom Klein, president of Sabre Holdings which through its several businesses supports the world-wide travel industry, including more than one billion travelers per year.
n Mark Schwab, CEO of Star Alliance Services, which coordinates development strategies of global airline alliances.
n Diane Shober, Tourism Director for the State of Wyoming.
n Arne M. Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, Inc.
n Roy Yamaguchi, internationally famous restaurateur, well known throughout the world for his innovative Hawaiian culinary arts featuring local ingredients.
n Lynda S. Zengerle, a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, head of the Immigration practice in the International Department.
According to their website (thebrandusa.com), the group is well financed with substantial investments from a who’s who list of major players including an “A” list of “Founding Partners” who contributed $1 million or more to the effort; organizations with names like:
Visit California, Visit Florida, Disney, U.S. Travel Association, Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, Best Western, British Airways, Discover Illinois, ESPN, Expedia, Hilton Worldwide, Las Vegas CVA, Louisiana Travel, Marriott International, NYC, Orbitz, The World Baseball Classic, Universal, Visit Orlando.
Other investors, “Premier Partners” contributed from $500,000 up to $1 million including the Arizona Office of Tourism, Los Angeles Tourism, Greater Miami and the Beaches and several others, too many to mention here, along with several other organizations who invested between $100,000 and $500,000, and others who invested less, some cash, some in-kind.
Clearly, organizations have to pay something to get Brand USA’s full attention and substantial representation; if competition means anything in this industry, despite our unique brand name recognition, we cannot afford not to participate.
Participation may be well worth the cost if their busy events schedule reflects any measure of their efforts and likely results over time.
Between January and December of this year alone, Brand USA’s formidable professional staff will be present, representing its members at no fewer than 20 major tourism events all over the world from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Beijing, China and from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Moscow, Russia and more than a dozen other popular travel destinations all over the globe.
Niagara Falls deserves to be represented around the world; having our State and National elected officials’ support for our membership in this elite circle of marketing specialists and promoters can be exactly what we need to get our wings off the ground and in the air where they belong.
We need to bury our hatchets in the ground, not in each other, and get ready with more accommodations at every level, more restaurants, more world class retail shopping and entertainment, better care and presentation of our amazing natural and cultural resources because, when Brand USA accomplishes their mission “to bring millions of new international visitors who spend billions of dollars to the United States, creating tens of thousands of new American jobs”, we’d better be ready!
Contact Bill Bradberry at firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Bill at email@example.com