LONDON—The United States has “lost our way,” CEO Jim Evans said at the launch of the Corporation for Travel Promotion’s rebrand as Brand USA on the opening day of World Travel Market 2011.
“Many of you know the first decade of this year has been labeled the lost decade. In some sense we lost our way,” he said. “We were the dominant destination in the world; we went from a 17% share to a 12% share. That’s 78 million people that didn’t come to our shores in these years. We lost one million people from the U.K. We have our work cut out for us.”
Brand USA is set to be the first coordinated global marketing effort dedicated to welcoming international travelers to the United States. The idea of Corporation for Travel Promotion doing business as Brand USA was created by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 with the mission to promote increased foreign leisure, business and scholarly travel to the U.S., and in turn aim to drive significant economic growth and job creation in communities across the country.
Previous research showed overseas arrivals to the U.S. are forecast to grow by 40% to almost US$300 million by 2020. Global travel spending is forecast to double, reaching US$2.1 trillion by the same year.
International travel to the U.S. supports 1.8 million U.S. jobs. Each overseas visitor spends an average of US$4,000 per trip on goods and services. Until now, the U.S. has been one of a few industrialized nations without a coordinated international visitation program; between 2000 and 2010 the global travel market grew by more than 60 million travelers annually, yet U.S. visitation stayed virtually flat.
The goal is for Brand USA, a not-for-profit organization, to raise US$200 million a year to spend on marketing the USA–US$100 million from industry and US$100 million collected from a fee from international visitors under the visa-waiver program.
What’s on tap
Stephen Cloobeck, chairman and CEO of Brand USA, said one of the key issues the group will address first is the arrival of visitors into the country at the hands of Homeland Security, often seen as off-putting by foreign visitors to the U.S. Other initiatives, such as creating channels for “trusted travelers”, would help regular visitors and U.S. citizens alike avoid the lengthy queues.
It “is not just about marketing the United States but the welcome message is at the forefront,” he said.
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Chris Perkins, chief marketing officer, said research had led to the identification of four key reasons visitors come to the U.S.:
• the great outdoors;
• urban excitement;
• culture; and
Perkins said Brand USA is “fundamentally a marketing organization and everything we do needs to be about reflecting the brand.” He talked about the creation of a 21st century brand; a brand that has a bigger, more vital difference to make.
“A brand that stands among the greatest brand of all time,” he said. “It’s important from a brand perspective that we need to convey that we are an ideal destination.”
Talking about the process behind the creation of Brand USA, Megan Kent, global business director at global ad agency JWT, said the opportunity for her “to launch a country” is immense. JWT set out to find the issues that put people off visiting the U.S and what attracts them.
“We uncovered in research that there were some things that people thought of us that weren’t exactly the greatest news,” she said.
Some of the barriers were that the U.S. was too familiar, somehow had become middle-aged and that some tourists reported finding the people “brash and arrogant” and “unwelcoming.” On the plus side, the motives were that the U.S. is largely known as the home of pop culture, seen as open and friendly and truly the land of the free with the diversity of both geography and of culture.
Key to the process is the assigning of Brand Ambassadors. More than 250 million ambassadors have been sought to potentially be Brand USA spokespeople. Kent said these people “were already acting on our behalf but they haven’t had the tools in place to go out and talk about their travels in the U.S. Through social media and a big ad campaign they will get these tools.”
Finally, the launch unveiled the USA new “pixels” logo, hung prominently in the Americas section of the World Travel Market exhibition hall. The first cooperative marketing campaign also began this week in Italy with more to follow imminently.