• U.S.

Travel: Land of Promise

3 minute read

“Christopher Columbus got the surprise of his life when he discovered America. So will you. There are mountains higher than the Alps. A canyon a mile deep. An extraordinary sense of discovery everywhere you go.” So proclaim dozens of full-page newspaper ads in England, France, Germany and Italy as the U.S. Government pushes its first advertising campaign to attract foreign tourists.

Sample come-on for Britons, prepared by Ogilvy, Benson & Mather: “You can tour the U.S.A. for £35 [$98] a week—without skimping. In the U.S.A. you can travel for 3,000 miles without crossing a border or showing your passport. If you journeyed this far in Europe, you would pass through ten different countries with different laws and different languages. And open your luggage for ten different customs inspectors.” As the ads point out, tourists may inspect such monuments to the American way as dude ranches, Mississippi riverboats, Indians, New England clambakes, country square dances.

Purrs & Grumbles. Prodding by U.S. Travel Service Director Voit Gilmore has cut visa-getting time, an old bugaboo for U.S.-bound tourists. (Says one ad: “You’ll have your visa in just 20 minutes.”) And in another ad a picture of a fountain pen is captioned: “This is all you need to register at any hotel, motel or inn anywhere in the U.S.A.” (In most of Europe, passports must be presented at hotel desks.) But one poster showing an impressive aerial view of one of Los Angeles’ clover-leafs had an unhappy effect. In Britain, the reaction was: “Get me on one of those things? Not bloody likely!”

Though it is too early to tell if the USTS campaign is responsible, the U.S. embassy in London reports that visa applications for the first four months of this year are 20% over last year’s. But the British press has been hitting the campaign hard for inaccurate presentation of travel costs. The first series of ads to appear in Great Britain assured: “Expenses for a party of four traveling by car come to less than £4 (about $11) a day. That includes food, sightseeing and lodging in motels with swimming pools.” The second series discreetly added the word “each” to the end of the first sentence. And a third made the point that the figure did not include the cost of renting the car.

Money & Mobs. The impression of most Europeans who have traveled before in the U.S. is that the figures in the ads are “impossible.” Said one Briton: “If you want to stay in the sort of place most people like staying in on holiday, have the sort of meals most people like to have in conditions that make meals a pleasure, three weeks’ holiday in America would cost just about double what the ads say.” Says Paris’ Figaro: “The U.S. risks having a problem this summer in a mob of tourists who believe what they read. Despite claims, there is absolutely no doubt that a tourist who undertakes a tour of four weeks in the direction of the Grand Canyon with $400 in his pocket is going to find himself after two weeks in the middle of the country without a cent and with only the Salvation Army to come to his rescue.”

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