AS many Britons are be hard pressed to name Henry VIII’s wives, so most Americans look dumbfounded when the subject of their country’s history is raised.
British visitors to the US, however, seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. Although US history and culture may be in short supply compared with that of its neighbours across the pond, its heritage is an increasingly popular attraction. The US government has seized on this by introducing a system of grants for tourism-related businesses that develop product based on ethnic American culture.
At the US Embassy in London during World Travel Market, a government-backed programme called American Pathways 2000 was unveiled. This highlights more than 70 new itineraries incorporating US heritage as a major attraction, including native American, African-American and Hispanic American cultures.
Cellet Travel Services, which represents a number of US states in the UK, has taken this a step further by launching a heritage and culture campaign for the British market. Managing director Stella Clery Ackland said it is initially planned it as a media-led exercise to draw attention to the US’ diverse yet little-known history.
She hopes that designating 2000 as North America Heritage Tourism Year will generate more interest from both consumers and tour operators, as well as becoming a focal point in education and training.
A growing number of operators’ self-drive and escorted touring holidays already have heritage themes on their itineraries. Clery Ackland represents destinations including North Carolina, Missouri, Newport on Rhode Island, Nevada and Colorado, which offer a wide variety of cultural attractions. Others include Illinois – part of the Great Lakes states – and Oklahoma in the US Heartlands.
“A lot of US states are already heavily involved in promoting their heritage and cultural assets and we want to produce a proactive media campaign for our clients that will prompt consumers to request more information. A number of themed brochures are already available for distribution,” she said.
North Carolina in the south – which counts Revolutionary and Civil War trails, and the native culture of the Cherokee Indians among its attractions – is being highlighted as a key example.
“There is so much that the British want to know when they are on holiday in the US. This reflects our target market – the more sophisticated traveller,” added Ackland. “Missouri is all about pioneering and cowboy culture, such as the era of Jesse James and Route 66.
“Other themes include the rivers of the US steamboats and Missouri’s strong musical history, such as the jazz culture in Kansas City and the history of the Blues in St Louis,” she said.
The state is also noted for its Louis and Clark Trail. This stems from the Louisiana Land Purchase of May 14, 1804, when two pioneers were charged with finding out what lay between St Louis and California after the US had bought the territory from the French. They finally ended up in what is now Washington State.
The findings of the first explorers to travel across the US are now featured as part of tour itineraries that trace their journey.