Uncle Sam wants you–to visit


THE WIZARDING World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

The US Travel Association and Brand USA are working feverishly to achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of welcoming 100 million foreign tourists to the States by 2021.

Several tourist hotspots, including the West Coast, Las Vegas, and Florida—three of the most visited destinations by Filipinos traveling to the United States—are beefing up their attractions to help achieve this ambitious goal.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of US Travel Association, announced this recently in Las Vegas during the 45th annual IPW (formerly known as International Powwow), a gathering of buyers and sellers, including tourism boards and travel-related industries in the United States.

ON FLIGHT of the Hippogriff at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, guests climb into a wicker Hippogriff to go on a training flight and ride on a family-friendly, whimsical rollercoaster.

“US Travel helps the industry to speak with one voice to facilitate increased travel, and Brand USA helps visitors make that choice to come here,” said Dow in an earlier interview with IPW Daily.

“Our efforts go hand in hand, and we work closely with our premier partner Brand USA, both in the event and year-round,” he added. “IPW is our chance to bring the world to America, and we’re thrilled to have that opportunity.”

Unlike in the Philippines, tourism-related concerns in the United States fall under the Department of Commerce. In turn, the department is on top of two private entities tasked to promote and facilitate travel to America.

While US Travel, in close coordination with the US state department, primarily works to reduce barriers to travel to the United States, the newly formed Brand USA is responsible for inviting the rest of the world to discover and rediscover America’s diverse attractions.

THE TURTLE Trek in SeaWorld offers guests a glimpse of sea turtles in their simulated natural environment. It’s the closest they could get to see these wonderful marine creatures without getting wet.

For decades, US Travel had to multitask by doing both functions, but there was a need to form a separate entity like Brand USA when President Obama announced last year the country’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy of bringing in 100 million international visitors by 2021.

This year’s IPW, said US Travel Association’s media manager Cathy Keefe, is estimated to generate $3.5 billion in travel revenues to the United States in the next three years, and at least $350 million in future economic impact for Las Vegas, this year’s host city. Chicago, which last hosted in 1998, will host next year’s IPW.


Growing participation

DESPICABLE Me Minion Mayhem ride is now open at Universal Orlando Resort.

And participation has kept growing, Keefe added. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of total delegates to IPW grew by 25 percent, booth sales increased by 23 percent, and participation by international and domestic buyers jumped 30 percent.

The Las Vegas gathering was able to attract 6,400 delegates from the United States and 70 other countries.

Filipinos won’t benefit any time soon from the state department’s expanded Visa Waiver Program, which now includes 17 countries, including recent additions such as South Korea and Taiwan. But those with the means to tour the United States may find these ongoing developments welcome news.

“If you haven’t been to Las Vegas since 2008 (the last time the city hosted IPW), you haven’t been to Las Vegas,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, in an earlier interview with IPW Daily.

THE ICONIC skyline of the Las Vegas Strip

In the last five years, he said, tourism-related businesses in Las Vegas have poured in $23.6 billion worth of investments. The amount translates into nearly 10,000 new hotel rooms, making Las Vegas the leading American tourist destination in terms of number of hotel rooms, with 151,000.

The city also opened McCarran International Airport’s state-of-the-art Terminal 3 in time for last May’s IPW. Built at a cost of $2.4 billion, the new addition is designed to welcome more leisure travelers in style, as the city continues to diversify its offerings.

New attractions will open along the Las Vegas Strip. The destination will invest more than $5 billion, with projects like Caesars Entertainment’s LINQ and Gasevoort Las Vegas.

TRANSFORMERS characters Megatron, Optimus Prime, BumbleBee are now regular fixtures at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Resorts Orlando.

“MGM Resorts International has announced plans for a 20,000-seat arena as well as more than $300 million worth of renovations for several of its properties,” said Ralenkotter. “A multibillion dollar, 87-acre, Asian-theme project, Resorts World Las Vegas, is slated to open in 2016.”

The attraction will include a replica of the Great Wall of China and a panda exhibit. The Sahara will undergo rebranding and will open next year as SLS Las Vegas.

Filipinos traveling to Los Angeles and Orlando won’t have to wait long to experience the new attractions Universal Studios has added to its two theme parks on both coasts.

More Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans are in for more surprises, as Universal Studios Hollywood will have the groundbreaking for “Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” an attraction once exclusive to Universal Orlando Resort. An opening date has yet to be announced, but officials promised a “magical” experience that’s faithful to the film’s landscape.

Universal Orlando will expand its Harry Potter attraction with the addition of Diagon Alley, an extension of the Harry Potter experience. It will include shops, a restaurant, and a marquee attraction based on fictional Gringotts Bank.

Diagon Alley is also incorporated in Universal Hollywood’s yet-to-open “Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

Given Universal Hollywood’s well-received opening of “Transformers: The Ride-3D” last year, Universal Orlando has launched its own Transformers 3D ride in Florida.

Universal Orlando has also partnered with Loews Hotels & Resorts to open a “dual-experience” property in 2014, to feature 1,800 family suites and standard rooms at both moderate and “value-based” price points.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, with 11 theme parks in the United States, the most visited of which are in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, is celebrating its 50th year in 2014 with a host of new attractions, including family-friendly animal shows and rides.

“SeaWorld Orlando just celebrated the grand opening of ‘Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin,’ with a huge response,” said Peter Frey, senior marketing officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, in an earlier interview with IPW Daily. “The largest expansion in SeaWorld’s history, the new realm blends animal encounters with a unique trackless ride the whole family can enjoy.”

“Only SeaWorld Orlando can fully immerse guests in the thrilling, chilling continent at the South Pole that few people will ever experience,” he added. “Guests also meet a very special penguin named Puck, and it’s through his eyes that they learn about the challenges and beauty of this remote and frozen land.”

But the new attraction also offers experiences that go beyond the simulated. Its highlight, for instance, is a colony of nearly 250 penguins. Stepping off the ride, guests find themselves among a colony of Adelie, Gentoo, king and rockhopper penguins in a 30-degree (Fahrenheit) habitat filled with wind, snow, rocks and chilly water. Brrr!

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  • Cavitekid

    Come and visit the USA, what if you are a single Philipina? Never get a visa from the US Embassy, unless you are some rich and influential corrupt big shot. Talk about corrupt, they better look into their own backyard before they start to invite people to the USA.

  • Patikotiko

    let them come here and experience the fun in the Philippines…..

    • Kaizensigma

      Just hold on tight on your wallets, backpack and anything of value. Also don’t forget the red light districts…it really fun.

      • Adrian_disqus

        Correct! Detroit and downtown LA are the safest places in America.

        There’s turmoil everywhere.

  • Zaraqael

    Right, right, come visit the U.S.A. First, try to get a visa from consuls who automatically view you as a potential TNT even if you’re a legit qualified tourist. Then you have to deal with ultra-paranoid TSA and INS personnel on the other side who will regard most entrants as potential terrorists, trafficked humans and smugglers. And if you’re lucky enough to gain entry sans trouble or inconvenience you still have to contend with criminality and rip-off prices. The land of the free and the home of the brave isn’t the place to go to anymore.

  • Kaizensigma

    Come one, come all. Everyone is welcome ……just don’t TNT.

  • Cue_Vas

    I would visit but unfortunately I receive starvation wages and the huge taxes I pay had been robbed by politiicians and bogus NGOs so they could buy properties in the U.S. of A.

  • Guest

    What’s wrong with Hong Kong Disneyland?
    Macau casinos?
    Singapore Universal Studios?

    Cheaper and no need for humiliating visa application experience.

    • barok

      If you can convince the visa officer of your ‘strong ties’ to your home country, that will likely work.
      Disneyworld and Universal Orlando are way much better than Hongkong or Singapore.

    • blue_lights

      Hong Kong Disneyland is garbage compared to the one in California. No Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours, Haunted Mansion, etc. etc. etc. it’s about 1/4th the size, and the food is horrendous. Hong Kong proper, is great for shopping and food though.

      Macau Casinos? Have you even been to the Cotai strip? It’s a construction zone of half-built Casinos that lost funding. Plus Macau food is greasy and bland, nothing even remotely close to the buffets you can get on the Vegas strip.

      Singapore Universal Studios, cheap replica of the one in Orlando.

      But don’t worry, you can’t miss what you’ve never had, right? Look at it this way, if you are happy with a cheap replica wristwatch, nothing wrong with that. But if you want a real Rolex, you work hard for it and pay what it’s worth.

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