With Hurricane Isaac causing a one-day delay in the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and providing a case study in meeting planning crisis management, U.S. Travel is on the scene with its Vote Travel campaign. The advocacy organization will head to Charlotte, N.C., next week for the Democratic National Convention, too, bringing its message about the huge economic benefits of the meetings and travel industries to the thousands of political leaders at both national conventions. The industries will be promoted on everything from hotel room key cards to taxicabs.
“We are going to embrace an aggressive and muscular presence at these conventions,” says Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president, public affairs at U.S. Travel, Washington, D.C. The Vote Travel campaign launched at the beginning of the year with a bus tour that has traveled 20,000 miles and visited 60 cities, spreading the word about the power of meetings and travel. The campaign will make its presence known in Tampa for the Republican National Convention (scheduled for August 27–29, but on hold at press time because of the threat of a hurricane) followed by Charlotte on September 4-7 for the Democratic National Convention. When delegates descend upon Tampa and Charlotte, says Rethmeier, there are eight possible touch points with the Vote Travel campaign:
• Through a partnership with Marriott, the Vote Travel logo will be emblazoned on key cards at the Marriott hotels in those two cities.
• Hoteliers are scheduling back-of-the-house tours with policymakers and delegates to show them what has to happen to put on a convention.
• All the taxicabs in Tampa and Charlotte will contain Vote Travel air fresheners, reminding delegates that ground transportation is part of the industry.
• Shuttle bus drivers will wear Vote Travel pins.
• Delegates who rent cars at Hertz or Enterprise will receive a microfiber screen cleaner for their phones that have statistics on the economic impact of travel.
• Street teams will give out Vote Travel T-shirts, pins, and squishy toys shaped like buses.
• Through a partnership with taxi company Uber, delegates who enter the “Vote Travel” coupon code will receive a $20 discount on their first Uber ride.
• There will also be a Vote Travel trivia contest, which delegates can participate in by following @USTravel on Twitter and responding to a daily trivia question. The winner will receive a two-night stay at MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show, $300 in food and beverage credit, and a $1,000 American Express gift card for airfare.
While U.S. Travel will not be endorsing candidates, the association will be sending out questionnaires to the Romney and Obama campaigns following the conventions seeking their responses to important travel-related issues, such as expanding the Visa Waiver Program. U.S. Travel plans to publicize the responses.
U.S. Travel is also creating a voter resource for travel and meetings industry employees that will be available through the Power of Travel Coalition, which includes the Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, and others. The online resource will allow people to type in their zip code to find their candidates and what their positions are on the issues, including travel-related issues. “It’s a resource we want to provide employees to get them thinking more politically about the industry they work in,” says Candice Knezevic, director, grassroots and industry relations, U.S. Travel. “It also encourages them to be politically active and head to the polls on November 6 and cast a vote for candidates that are supportive of travel.”