Travel Trade Group Jumps on Obama’s Tourism Train

The U.S. Travel Association hopes President Barack Obama’s recent expansion of a visa waiver program helps its industry take flight. As Obama delivers his State of the Union Address tonight, the trade group is using search ads to drive people to a video it hopes will put Americans in the mood to travel.

“Travel can drive the American recovery,” suggests the video, which links to VoteTravel.org. “2012 will be an historic election year,” adds a voiceover. “Your vote will determine the direction of this country. Join us in our national campaign as we show every candidate the power of our industry,” it continues. “Vote Travel.”

The site features a sign-up form to receive updates on the tourism campaign. The association touted the president’s visa plan, which he announced January 19 at one of the country’s top tourist destinations, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida – an important battleground state and home to the next big Republican primary election.

“Policies U.S. Travel will champion include expansion of the Visa Waiver Program to Brazil, Argentina and Chile; further improvements to our entry process for international guests; streamlining the TSA experience for trusted travelers; and building an aviation system that encourages greater air travel,” wrote the trade group in a January 19 press release.

The organization hopes to drive viewers to the video through Google search ads and display ads running in travel news content in Google’s network. It will also run the video in ad form through YouTube’s TrueView units streamed before news and travel videos. With the TrueView format, advertisers pay only if users click the ad or watch it for 30 seconds. If a viewer skips the ad after a few seconds, the advertiser pays nothing.

While many political and advocacy advertisers have grown accustomed to using search and display advertising, many groups that typically only lobby Capitol Hill have yet to try online advertising. Some, however, have come around. A search for “oil and gas exploration” on Google, for example, turns up an ad for the American Petroleum Institute, a U.S. trade group.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees is using a SOTU-related video to spur interest in issues important to public sector union workers. The group put out a video highlighting reasons it believes the GOP’s choice of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to deliver tonight’s Republican rebuttal to Obama’s speech is “scary.” The video encourages people to like AFSCME on Facebook.