U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson today appointed Puerto Rico Tourism Company Executive Director Mario González-Lafuente, to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) as part of a strategy to promote the United States.
The announcement of González-Lafuente’s participation as one of the 32 members of the TTAB was made during President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Bryson’s visit to Orlando today and is the latest in a series of “We Can’t Wait” actions that Obama and his administration have undertaken to aid job creation through executive action.
“President Obama presented a robust strategy to promote the U.S. as a tourist destination,” said González-Lafuente. “My contribution will primarily focus on helping the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board develop an innovative and integrated marketing program that effectively utilizes social media, sponsorships and branded entertainment.”
As part of today’s swearing-in ceremony and inaugural meeting of the TTAB, González-Lafuente will present his thoughts to Bryson and fellow board members on the issues he feels most affect the travel and tourism industry, namely:
- Broaden the current Visa Waiver Program, to include those countries that have historically provided large numbers of visitors to the U.S. This is particularly important for emerging economies such as those of Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, for example.
- Improve efficiencies at U.S. consular offices to reduce the backlog of requests for tourist visas. Support in-transit programs for airports that have been negatively affected by the changes that resulted from 9/11. This would result in increased access to different markets in the U.S. for international airlines, support U.S. Open Skies agreements efforts, and increase air traffic in markets that have been affected by post-9/11 changes. It would also support destinations that are currently only served through the major air hubs allowing, for example, for a market such as Puerto Rico to become a strategic connecting hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Increase awareness of the financial benefits to hotel owners and developers by implementing green tourism initiatives. Puerto Rico has developed guidelines for green hotels, for example, and green tourism has been growing on the island with the development of eco-friendly and eco-related attractions.
“This Board represents the eyes and ears of our nation’s travel and tourism industry and I am committed to working with each of the esteemed members to bring more visitors to the United States,” Bryson said. “I appreciate the Board members’ dedication to our economic recovery and look forward to working with González-Lafuente to put ideas into action to bolster job creation in this critical economic sector.”
The TTAB serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the U.S. travel and tourism industry, advising on government policies and programs that affect the U.S. travel and tourism industry, offers counsel on current and emerging issues, and provides a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to industry-related problems.
Members represent companies and organizations in the travel and tourism industry from a broad range of products and services, company sizes and geographic locations.
“I’m looking forward to lending my expertise to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board,” said González-Lafuente. “Travel is one of the most important sectors in Puerto Rico so I understand well the need to implement a vibrant campaign to encourage travelers from all over the world to visit this culturally and experientially rich country.”
Appointment draws praise
González-Lafuente’s designation drew praise from the island’s highest-ranking government officials, Governor Luis Fortuño and Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock.
“This appointment represents the federal government’s acknowledgment of the great advance Puerto Rico has made in positioning the Island as one of the most important tourism destinations in the hemisphere,” Fortuño. “Through Mario, we wish to continue to contribute to the development of the tourism sector in the United States, by developing strategies and participating directly in the economic recovery of the nation.”
In a separate statement, McClintock said it is a “source of pride that a member of the governor’s economic cabinet is distinguishing himself at the White House.”
“This appointment is also evidence that efforts to develop tourism — Puerto Rico does it better — are correct and also serve to strengthen the initiatives of the nation,” McClintock said.