Exclusive Interview – Chris Ellis – Director, Global Trade Development at Brand USA
Moving to Brand USA in September 2016, Chris Ellis, the new Director of Global Trade Development for the American DMO may speak with a British accent, but has a very broad background in the business. Indeed, over the past 16 years, he has worked for Universal Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, and until just a few months ago, Visit Orlando, where he was Senior Manager of Travel Industry Sales. We asked Chris what Brand USA’s main focus is for the coming months.
We are concentrating even more on promoting the proximity of U.S. travel destinations through our new digital campaign “All Within Your Reach”. The campaign helps travelers understand exactly how many unique destinations and attractions they can experience with even on visit to a gateway city. Everyone flies into New York and does Manhattan or flies into LA and does Hollywood. What we are saying is “Continue to do that but branch out a bit more”.
WE HAVE A TRIP-KIT THAT SUGGESTS A LOT OF PLACES PEOPLE MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT
For example, fly into Washington DC, see all the sights there are to see there, but then maybe look into Virginia, and look at the vineyards or micro-breweries there. It’s all within a five-hour drive of the gateway. We have a trip-kit that suggests a lot of places people may not have thought about. But we are even taking that a step further, because if you can imagine a smaller hotel in one of these places that has never done any international business at all, we will educate the hotelier how to do business, and introduce concepts like voucher systems, room blocks, pre-bought allocations, black-out periods, what to expect when you are working with an international tour operator or travel agent.
What are the prospects with Europe at the moment since the rise of the dollar?
We are obviously watching Europe at the moment with Brexit, and it’s true the US Dollar is very, very strong. One of the challenges we have is explaining to people that while it may appear at the outset to be more expensive than before, when you are in the US, it’s still excellent value when it comes to eating, sightseeing and shopping. That’s the message we are trying to get across.
How is travel agent training progressing?
We have an online travel agent training module that does various destinations and regions. Teams at our offices in the UK and Germany are very much into training. Our major objective is Fam Trips. If you can get agents to experience how much there is to see and do in the USA, and they feel confident, then they will sell it.