US launches tourism campaign
How do you sell Times Square and the Grand Canyon? The Carolinas and California?
Residents of Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom got a taste Tuesday of the United States' first-ever marketing campaign aimed at boosting tourism.
The print, web and video ads released Tuesday were created by Brand USA, a partnership of government agencies and private companies. The consortium was developed to act like the tourism ministries of countries such as Ireland, Italy or Israel.
It's the first time that the US has marketed itself as a tourist destination to people living in other countries.
While tourism has increased globally over the last decade, the US slice of those travellers has fallen, due in large part to complicated visa procedures and heightened security that followed the September 11 attacks.
The US had a 17 per cent slice of the global tourism spending in 2000, but that has fallen to just over 11 per cent today.
About six per cent of tourists globally last year came to the US — that's behind France.
The 10 years after the attacks are often referred to as the "lost decade" for US tourism, because new procedures drove millions of international travellers to other countries. Many European countries have reaped the benefit of the US tightened restrictions. More Chinese tourists, for example, now go to France each year than the US.
The average overseas visitor to the United States spends US$4,000 per trip, according to the US Travel Association.
Japan, Canada and the UK were chosen as the first round of targets because the top-spending tourists in the US come from those countries, which also have relatively light US travel restrictions.
Canadians, the top international spenders within American borders, spent US$24 billion last year.
In a few weeks, the ads will spread to Brazil and South Korea. A handful of other markets will follow. Brand USA plans to spend about US$12.3 million on advertising in the next three months.
"Dollars are tight today and we want to be very thoughtful about where and when we spend them," said Stephen J. Cloobeck, chairman of Brand USA and CEO of Diamond Resorts International.
"But we're doing all this with a smile and a sign that says 'Welcome to the United States'," he said.
The print ads feature shots of various US spots, including New Orleans' French Quarter and the Redwood Preserve in California, with the tag line 'Discover this land like never before'.
The video ads' soundtrack features a song called Land of Dreams, with lyrics and music singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, the daughter of country music icon Johnny Cash.
Brand USA is also working with government agencies to reduce wait times for visas and make other changes to encourage more international visitors.
Last year, for example, the wait for a Chinese tourist to secure a visa for travel to the United States was about six months; now it is less than a week.
The group is operating with funds set aside two years ago under the federal Travel Promotion Act.