The Travel and Tourism Industry and PR’s Role in It

Travel and tourism in America has become big business. It is the business of trains, planes, and automobiles. Plus cruise ships, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, passenger railroads, motor coaches, tour companies, and much more. These components can be categorized into four major sectors: hotels, restaurants, transportation, and destinations/tourist attractions. Twenty years ago, the business of the industry was generally considered by the media to be “soft” or feature news

A fundamental reason for the change is that industry communicators have succeeded in convincing journalists that travel and tourism has a powerful impact on local and national economies. Stories that once were relegated to feature segments on television and in newspaper travel sections today regularly appear on “prime-time” business news segments and in the business sections of national publications because of the significant economic implications.

It should be noted that in 2003 Congress passed legislation creating the U.S. Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board composed of top industry executives to promote travel to the United States. However, the board’s initial $50-million funding was subsequently reduced by Congress to $6 million. As of press time for this book, attempts were under way to boost this funding, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA)

The industry’s premier annual special event in the United States is National Tourism Week, during the second week of each May. This was established in 1983, when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution designating the week. In a White House ceremony the next year, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week with “the appropriate ceremonies and activities.


The travel agent segment in recent years has undergone significant restructuring due to the proliferation of online reservation networks such as Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz. These have provided enormous competition for travel agencies—especially in the airline field where all air carriers over the past decade have dropped the 10 percent commissions they used to remit to travel agencies for bookings.