By Samantha Bomkamp, AP
NEW YORK–How do you sell Times Square and the Grand Canyon? The Carolinas and California? Residents of Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom are getting 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 U.S. has marketed itself as a tourist destination to people living in other countries. While tourism has increased globally over the last decade, the U.S. slice of those travelers has fallen, due in large part to complicated visa procedures and heightened security that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The U.S. had a 17-percent slice of the global tourism spending in 2000, but that has fallen to just over 11 percent today. About 6 percent of tourists globally last year came to the U.S. — that’s behind France. The 10 years after the attacks are often referred to as the “lost decade” for U.S. tourism, because new procedures drove millions of international travelers to other countries. Many European countries have reaped the benefit of the U.S. tightened restrictions. More Chinese tourists, for example, now go to France each year than the U.S. The average overseas visitor to the United States spends US$4,000 per trip, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Japan, Canada and the UK were chosen as the first round of targets because the top-spending tourists in the U.S. come from those countries, which also have relatively light U.S. travel restrictions. Canadians, the top international spenders within American borders, spent US$24 billion last year. A few weeks from now, 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, the chairman of Brand USA and CEO of Diamond Resorts International. “But we’re doing we’re doing all this with a smile and a sign that says ‘Welcome to the United States.’” The print ads feature shots of various U.S. 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 the United States was about 6 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.