Founded in 2007 as a direct outcome of the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Summit held in Washington, DC in October 2005, the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Market Council (USCHT) has made great strides in achieving its goal of advancing culture and heritage tourism both nationally and internationally. Its founding partners include Visit California (formerly California Travel and Tourism Commission), VISITFLORIDA, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Council, The Henry Ford, Hilton Head Visitor & Convention Bureau, New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Museum Store Association with support of the U.S. Department of Commerce/ITTI and in partnership with Shop America Alliance (SAA).
USCHT has made great strides the last eight years, establishing the importance of culture and heritage tourism as the leading travel segment in generating revenue, returning the greatest ROI of all travel categories. As a result, USCHT now has a seat at the table and a voice on travel leadership boards, having just completed a tenure on the Secretary of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, the Council leaders have also served on the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors, the Destination Travel Foundation Board and the Brand USA Marketing Advisory Committee. USCHT is currently serving on the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Experience Network Board of Directors (formerly known as the National Attractions Council).
As with any organization, it is important to be nimble and ready to address new opportunities to add additional value to its members and to grow its members. The U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council was formed because, after the Summit in 2005, it was clear that there was not an overarching organization to market our country’s culture and heritage tourism. Thus, the Council decided to take the leadership role in marketing the nation’s cultural and heritage to both national and international visitors.
USCHT is positioned as a leader in the industry partnering with destination management companies and cultural institutions, marketing their cultural and heritage assets to visitors including packaging, on line marketing and promotion.
In celebrating its eighth anniversary, USCHT is expanding its representation of cultural and heritage tourism marketing to a much broader base. The U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Association’s Revised Mission is to be the champion of the culture and heritage tourism industry, to better market our nation’s cultural and heritage treasures to visitors both domestically and internationally, adding new life to America’s “story” and contributing to the economic growth of our country.
Eight Years of Accomplishments of U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council
Since the founding of the USCHT in 2007, there have been monumental shifts in marketing opportunities and challenges in the travel and tourism industry. Among the developments we are now addressing as we market cultural and heritage tourism are the importance of on line travel providers, the proliferation of hand held mobile devices, the unlimited information and services the traveler can access and implement via phone, I-Pad or computer including the impact of social networking, the emerging lucrative new international markets including China, India and Brazil and, most recently, the establishment of Brand USA that now provides a significant budget to market the US internationally.
There have also been unparallel challenges in these last few years including the economic downturn that slashed tourism marketing budgets and downsized supportive staff in state and local governments and destination management offices, the impact to travel from natural and manmade disasters such as 911, Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and volcano eruptions, etc. etc. etc.
Throughout these seven years, USCHT continues to grow its leadership position working with representatives of the tourism industry to expand the lucrative cultural and heritage travel segment throughout the country. The following are some of the highlights of what USCHT has accomplished to date:
- Cultivated and Supported USCHT Partners in developing and marketing cultural and heritage tour packages, providing public relations and offering educational opportunities, spearheading market research initiatives, outreach to other tourism and cultural related entities presenting information about the economic impact of cultural and heritage tourism and serving as their voice in national tourism leadership organizations.
- As Co-Founder and President of the US Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council. Sheila Armstrong represents the Cultural & Heritage Tourism sector having served on the US Travel Association Board of Directors, the Brand USA Marketing Advisory Committee and the National Council of Attractions Board of Directors. She also served on the US Department of Commerce Secretary’s Travel & Tourism Advisory Board. In all of these organizations she is a strong advocate for expanded awareness of the importance of Cultural & Heritage Tourism.
- As President of Shop America Alliance and Co-Founder of the US Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, Rosemary McCormick has served on the US Travel Association Board/Executive Committee and on the Destination & Travel Foundation Board, part of DMAI, where she advocated and promoted shopping, dining and cultural heritage tourism as the top 3 travel activities.
- Packaged Cultural & Heritage Tours. More than 60 exciting cultural and heritage packages representing over 150 destinations have been developed by USCHT. They are displayed and marketed on TheCulturalTraveler.com and via leading travel agents and tour operators.
- TheCulturalTraveler.com. A website established to market cultural and heritage packages along with other USCHT initiatives including the ONE Travel Conference, cultural and heritage research and The Cultural Traveler guide.
- The Cultural Traveler guide is an annual publication. The 2015 edition, which is its sixth edition, reaches more than 40,000 domestic and international travelers and travel trade, including all 6000 IPW delegates. It is published by USCHT in partnership with Shop America Alliance and endorsed by the American Association of Museums and Americans for the Arts. The guide is distributed at many of the national and international travel trade shows including IPW, Go West, World Travel Market, ITB, La Cita, Expo Vacaciones, and in conferences presented by Group Travel. In addition, it is available in Texas and Louisiana Airports via their Tax Free offices and distributed via Select Registry Association of Innkeepers and at America’s Byways Welcome Stops.
- The Cultural Traveler Research Study, fielded in 2013 by Mandala Research was a second wave of the research conducted by Mandala Research in 2009. The studies have been commissioned by USCHT and sponsored by organizations including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, US Department of Commerce/OTTI, Museum Store Association Shop America Alliance and several DMOs. This study have been very well received, widely distributed and frequently quoted in the media. A White Paper on this study is available. In addition, USCHT has partnered with Mandala Research on several other domestic and international studies and always includes questions on Cultural & Heritage travel in these studies.
- Partnering with the American Association of Museums, USCHT produced The Cultural Traveler Pavilion at the AAM conference in 2009 to raise awareness on the importance of cultural and heritage tourism. National Geographic Traveler, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Museum Store Association were partners in this 5000 square foot interactive display.
- USCHT lead a Panel on Cultural & Heritage Tourism at the 2010 AAM conference where The Cultural Traveler research study was presented. US DOC/OTTI participated in both of these AAM events.
- Museum Store Association collaborated with USCHT in publishing a series of seven Cultural & Tourism White Papers, written by Rosemary McCormick and Sheila Armstrong, and distributed to their 1800 members.
- Marketing Cultural & Heritage Tourism by Rosemary McCormick was published in partnership with MSA, Shop America Alliance and USCHT. This book includes many ideas presented in the White Papers including partnerships, PR, online tourism marketing and how to develop a strategic plan along with tourism terminology, findings from the USCHT research studies and case studies.
- Authentic America Travel is a marketing campaign developed by SAA, USCHT and MSA in partnership with Hand Made in America and AIANTA- American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. The goal of this program is to market Authentic America products and experiences to international travelers and thus increase exports. The campaign request for funding from DOC’s MDCP Grant program was not approved; however, our partners view this campaign as a viable program. The next step is to find ways to implement this campaign including pursuing other funding resources.
- ONE Travel Conference for Shopping, Dining and Cultural Heritage Tourism, is an annual conference bringing together these three major segments of travel to partner on marketing. The 2011 inaugural conference was held in Pasadena, California, the 2012 conference was in Orlando, Florida. The 2013 ONE conference was held in Costa Mesa, California and the 2014 conference was held in Bloomington, Minnesota at the Mall of America. The 2015 Conference was held in Tysons Corner, outside Washington, DC. The 2016 conference will be held in September. The location and exact date will be announced in early 2016. USCHT produces this conference in partnership with Shop America Alliance.
- ONGOING Cultural & Heritage Tourism Public Relations: USCHT and SAA present at many travel industry conferences. Highlights of The Cultural Traveler research study were presented at U.S. Travel’s Marketing Outlook Forum, the State Conferences of North Carolina, Florida, California and Texas and the International Heritage Development Conference. In addition, USCHT partnered has presented webinars with Mandala Research. USCHT and SAA partner is developing a USB media kit for the IPW Media Marketplace and at travel trade shows in the US and internationally. Sheila Armstrong and Rosemary McCormick are regular contributor on cultural and heritage topics in Museum Store Magazine, Shop America Magazine and other publications.
- The U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council consulted with the St. Johns Cultural Council to support their initiative to present their first Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Conference, October 16-18, 2013 in St. Augustine, Florida. USCHT coordinated the presenters, secured VISIT FLORIDA as a sponsor and Will Secombe, Director of VISIT FLORIDA, as the keynote speaker. In addition, both Rosemary McCormick and Sheila Armstrong gave presentations on marketing cultural and heritage tourism.
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