With increasing numbers of airlines operating direct services from the Middle East to North America, there is no time like the present to send clients on a trip to the US, explains Lee Jamieson.
The US presents unparalleled opportunities for the Middle Eastern leisure traveller - its tourism offerings are as diverse as its landscape and culture.
"In the Middle East, we have a wide range of leisure travellers, each motivated by very different needs and wants," says Emirates Holidays, regional manager, destination development, Europe and the Americas, Marco Heinrich. "The great thing about the US is that it has it all, allowing us to cater to everybody's needs."
Today, the US is more accessible than ever before. As air links between the Middle East and the US strengthen, a window of opportunity is emerging for the Middle East's travel trade - but the question is how to capitalise on this and maximise the potential of the US? New York ... the city that never sleeps
New York needs no introduction. Indeed, the city is the number one US destination for international travellers, accounting for 32% of the market share - nearly three times more than second-placed Los Angeles.
We are all familiar with images of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building and the New York skyline - New York sells itself.
"New York is the place if your clients want an action-packed holiday, " says Heinrich.
"It's true when they say this city never sleeps! - you would need more than a month's vacation to fully experience the city."
By far the most popular activity in New York is shopping, a primary and fondly persued aim of 88% of the city's visitors.
"Shopping is a major draw for the Middle Eastern traveller, when you take the exchange rate into account," explains Heinrich. "It's a shopper's paradise."
How to sell New York to...
Couples: After sightseeing, couples can indulge themselves in the city's diverse gastronomy. The Chocolate Bar is the perfect place to soak up the chic, New York ambience. Visit www.buffalochocolatebar.com.
Families: Although only 7% of New York's visitors travel with children, there is still a great deal to do for youngsters heading to New York including a trip to the interactive Children's Museum of the Arts and the Central Park Zoo.
Houston ... "we have a problem"
Despite being the fourth most populated city in the US, Houston's international visibility is eclipsed by its more famous neighbours.
Although this may make it a more difficult destination to sell, it also offers a more authentic American experience.
"You'll find the real America in places like Houston," explains Heinrich.
"Most first-time visitors go to more familiar places like New York, so Houston is ideal for a returning client."
Houston is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that is in touch with its historical and cultural heritage. Visitors can visit Houston's Space Centre and tour the historic mission control and the astronaut training facilities.
Emirates Airline flies to Houston daily and from March 30, Qatar Airways will run a direct service from Doha to the city in a bid to capitalise on the oil and gas industry traffic between the two destinations.
How to sell Houston to...
Couples: Suggest a hands-on day at the George Ranch Historical Park.
Families: Houston is a very child-friendly city and boasts a wide range of family activities. Suggest a trip to Houston Space Centre, Houston Zoo or the Downtown Aquarium. Houston even boasts its own Children's Museum. Visit www.cmhouston.org for details of current events and exhibitions.
Culture seekers: Houston has the second largest theatre district in the US after New York with a full-time programme of events. The district also boasts 15 museums.
San Francisco... the windy city
In recent years, San Francisco has become a prominent US destination for Middle East leisure travellers. Unlike many other cities in the US, San Francisco is easy to explore on foot and is only 49 square miles in size.
Iconic images of the fog rolling around the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge aside, San Francisco offers an impressive array of sights and attractions to international visitors.
"Alcatraz continues to be one of the most exciting attractions in the city," says San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau director, Europe and Latin America, Hubertus Funke. "The cellblock audio tour really immerses the visitor into the feel of the island's gripping history."
Other activities include seeing the impressive San Francisco cityscape by cable car and eating seafood in the quaint Fisherman's Wharf area.
The city has just become more easily accessible for travellers from the Gulf with Emirates Airline flying direct from Dubai three times weekly.
How to sell San Francisco to...
Couples: Bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge are a popular activity for couples. Across the bridge visitors will find the houseboats of Sausalito, an area with a romantic, bohemian feel.
Families: Suggest a trip to Alcatraz for an eerie, but fun and educational day out for the whole family.
California is diverse - this is a state where you can surf and ski in the same day. Some of the best activities involve self-drive road trips: exploring its abundance of national parks, driving from vineyard to vineyard, or drive the classic Route 66.
"The California road trip has become a famous rite of passage for many of our international visitors," explains California Travel and Tourism Commission's Burnside.
"Popular alternatives to Route 66 are Highway 101 to Eureka, which reveals eco-friendly living and a trip through rugged countryside of Death Valley on Highway 190."
Alternatively, for those that prefer the theme park experience, California is a world leader: the infamous Disneyland, Legoland, Seaworld and Universal Studios can all be found in the state.
Burnside notes a marked increase in visitors from the Middle East from 78,000 in 2006 to 113,000 in 2007 - a figure likely to be boosted now that direct flights to the region have been established in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
How to sell California to...
Couples: Hire a convertible car and take a relaxed and indulgent self-drive wine tour journey through California State.
Families: No family trip to California is complete without a visit to Disneyland and Universal Studios. Both theme parks provide an unforgettable family day out.
Sports enthusiasts: This month, world-famous cyclist Lance Armstrong heads to the US, returning from retirement to race in the fourth annual Amgen Tour of California.
Los angeles ... the city of angels
Los Angeles is one of the most exclusive destinations in the US. Luxury hotels are plentiful and restaurants are frequented by top celebrities. The mystique of Hollywood and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous has proved a major selling point for this city.
"There are plenty of opportunities for tourists to find celebrity sightings and do as the celebrities do here," says California Travel and Tourism Commission international media relations manager Kat Burnside.
"Visitors can tour celebrity homes, tour movie studios and find the handprints of their favourite star on Hollywood Boulevard."
Although many of the attractions can be found in the downtown area, visitors really need to hire a car to fully experience the city.
"A car is essential because everything is so spread out," explains Emirates Holidays' Heinrich. "That said, the driving is really easy and it's fairly simple to find your way around."
How to sell LA to...
Couples: Suggest a trip out to Malibu, a favourite romantic getaway. Walk along the picturesque beach and explore the oceanfront eateries.
Families: Universal Studios Hollywood offers a great family day out, jam-packed with rides, shows and studio tours.
Culture seekers: Suggest a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which houses over 150,000 artworks - making it the largest art museum in the western states. Alternatively, visitors can delve into America's history at the Autry National Centre, a museum that chronicles the myth and reality of the American West.
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