Catherine Ryan submits-
I sat with Peter Webber of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and a great group from Newburyport. The Massachusetts Director of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) is Betsy Wall and she’s impressive! She has pushed for investment in this sector, measurable returns, and building success through strong partner engagement. I thought about the Essex National Heritage Trail and MA Smart Growth Alliance. I thought about the great work from Anita Walker and the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the new state Cultural Districts. This led me to wondering how many women were in charge of Departments with Gov. Patrick and how much were their budgets and all sectors? I confess that I would have started to look that up right then and there (wifi was good!), but everything was so interesting I had to listen.
Several dignitaries were introduced.
Massachusetts State Representative Kathleen O’Connor Ives is the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development (seems very approachable) along with Representative Cory Atkins (Concord). Ives lives in Newburyport so our table was excited when she spoke! There was big applause from Plymouth and Cape Cod attendees for Therese Murray (Plymouth/Barnstable), the Massachusetts Senate President. Well, she likely supported Plymouth’s 400th Centennial exhibition that will travel across the US and overseas!
The room– and the international table– just beamed for Governor Deval Patrick who was our keynote speaker. Travel and tourism is right up there with other market pillars that have helped the MA economy recover (such as higher education and healthcare). He gave a shout out to…The Berkshires! He presented MOTT awards to several successes in the TT arena including City of Salem, the Freedom Trail, SturbridgeVillage, The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, and Boston Gay Pride. The international representatives at the table next to us covered Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Japan. The three big emerging countries? China, Brazil and India.
Betsy Wall lined up the speakers to cover the big picture on down, and how they’re working and partnering together. The first Guest Speaker was great, President of Brand USA (Discover America), Christopher L. Thompson.
He shared this Roseanne Cash “Land of Dreams” song/video commercial that was done “before he came on board”. I’m not sure if that meant he was cool for it or not! I admit that I was trying to spot Gloucester’s flag and other towns within the great room, and did not concentrate just then on specific shots of MA in this video, but I did see iconic art and bridges. You can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrUs_FWqj9s
Incidentally tracking film and tv production within MA falls in MOTT’s domain and Gloucester is one of 70 towns or cities that have been used as location over the past two years. In 2013 alone there have been 16 major productions in MA and estimated spending for the year is north of $215,000,000.
Thompson (and others) described this industry as the nation’s #1 service export and that1 in every 8 jobs reflects this sector of the economy. Massachusetts is big time involved. Massachusetts is a destination for its “must see” sights, and so many of our Nation’s “firsts” are here. Massachusetts is also leading or in the top 5 for work in healthcare, energy efficiency and alternate energy, life sciences and biology. People are visiting their kids at our universities, moving through for military travel, etc. Boston Conventions is the leading INTERNATIONAL headquarters for business, scientific and medical segments of the economy. Although travel is up, it has not reached the levels pre 2001. Brand USA was implemented to raise these numbers. This industry is so ready with measurements and metrics they could easily offer exact data about how much business was lost and the economic impact from the government shut down.
Another speaker, Tom Glynn, CEO for the Massachusetts Port Authority, gave a terrific update. Massport is helping people move through quickly and safely and they have a global outlook. They’ve streamlined the clog (vehicular and exhaust!) at pick up and drop off for Logan by switching to one integrated bus system for all rental car companies (28 vs. 100+). They’ve rearranged curbs and added better wayfinding. They’ve introduced the new TSA program “global entry”. There are big gains in travel infrastructure and many more non stop flights available.
The last speaker up was Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Relations for the United States Travel Association (USTA). She spoke about our country being the number one place foreigners say they want to travel to– but then don’t, because of how long it takes to acquire a visa and the travel hassles. She’d say that increased international travel means more American jobs. They’re working on making that travel easier. This means in places such as Brazil and China, two willing markets, people may be able to access digital media for interviews for visas rather than having to take a trip to another location possibly hours away just to apply… to take a trip to the US. It also means spreading the news about the Jolt Act (HR 1354) which supports expanding the Visa Waiver Program to Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Israel, Poland, Romania and Uruguay because it could add billions to our economy and create more jobs. Text from your phone today 877-877, “travel”, and send to sign up for the Power of Travel coalition if you want to help there.
What does MOTT mean for folks, organizations and businesses in Gloucester? You can sign up to meet Director Betsy Wall in person. Peter Webber has arranged for Ms. Wall to visit Cape Ann next week. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce is hosting this very special reception on Wednesday, October 30th, from 9AM-10:30AM at the Rockport Inn & Suites. You can RSVP here http://web.capeannchamber.com/events/eventdetail.aspx?EventID=1136
Visit and re-visit MOTT’s website www.massvacation.com. It’s full on engagement, ever updating and rich content. Take some time to submit your business/org listing to the website (no guaranty but worth a try); use great (seasonal) photos, and write ups. See what is already listed. Look at the tabs for LBGT and MA Green and other categories. Add into their social media platforms (send in your photos, posts, comments) and partake in the robust real time marketing they’re making available. It’s going to be a great resource when you want to visit other towns, too.