While Idaho is aggressively seeking visitors from Asia and Europe, especially from Japan, a travel expert says states should be wary of spending too much on foreign promotions.
Foreign visitors account for only 4 percent of the West's tourism revenue, with 70 percent of that coming from Canada, said Rocky Fink of the Old West Trail Foundation, a Wyoming-based organization that promotes tourism in Western states."Japan is a very minute portion of our travel revenue," Fink said during the Small Business Administration's annual Tri-State Travel Rendezvous at Yellowstone National Park.
Idaho is among seven states that have joined Visit U.S. West, a cooperative venture seeking to help states compete for foreign tourists.
Idaho plans to spend $15,000 of its $2 million tourism budget on the Visit U.S. West promotion, said Carl Wilgus, Idaho Travel Council director.
Fink said regional cooperation provides more diverse and attractive promotions. States can make better use of their promotion dollars by projecting an exciting image of the region and making travelers aware of what the region has to offer.
Visit U.S. West has offices in San Francisco, Australia, Japan and England. The other states in the group are Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada.
"As state offices, we don't have the experience, time or manpower to dedicate to international promotions," Wilgus said, adding that Idaho would concentrate primarily on Japan and the United Kingdom.
Fink recommended that states concentrate on consumer advertising, on trade advertising directed at tour wholesalers and brokers, and on developing high-quality regional travel packages.
Foreign visitors view America as an expensive vacation destination and as an unsafe place to visit because of the high crime rate. So Western states should concentrate on making the foreign visitor feel safe and secure, and promoting the scenic beauty, the quality of the experience and the affordable price, Fink said.