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TORONTO — The past few years have certainly been busy for Brand USA. Now in its third year in operation, the country’s first cooperative destination marketing organization has since established international representation in 20 markets, embarked on sales missions, road shows and destination sales training, launched consumer campaigns in 10 markets and, most recently, opened a brand new office in Canada, its 10th overall.
Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA, and Alfredo Gonzalez, Senior Vice President of Marketing, made a recent stop in Toronto to commemorate the office’s official launch and reiterate how important the Canadian market is to U.S. tourism.
“Canada is our #1 market in terms of visitation and spending,” said Thompson. “In fact, we’re using the Canadian market as a way to implement innovation. With emerging markets like China, for example, we have to take a more boots-on-the-ground, traditional approach. Canada, on the other hand, is a very mature and well established market, which gives way for innovation.”
Brand USA’s presence in Canada can be seen through multi-channel campaigns with Redtag.ca (print and digital), travel agent training and tour operator programs. The organization has also distributed 50,000 travel guides this year alone, as well as established a department called Air Team USA, which works directly with airlines to minimize the effects of low capacity.
Looking ahead, a new film titled ‘Wild U.S.A. National Parks’ will be launched worldwide in summer 2015 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Dubbed an ‘off-trail’ IMAX journey, the film highlights the country’s most beautiful destinations and promises to “unleash the adventurer in all”.
As part of the organization’s more regional and thematic approach to marketing and training, it has also launched a new culinary guide called ‘Discover America: Great American Food Stories’. Featuring delectable recipes, regional highlights and profiles of the country’s top 31 chefs, the 66-page guide is what Thompson refers to as “compelling storytelling through culinary diplomacy”, giving insight to destinations through local chefs like California-based Benjamin Ford.
“This guide is a great reflection of regions in the U.S. It says that we’re more than just burgers and French fries,” said Ford.
All of these initiatives have certainly been paying off. Ever since President Obama signed into law the first-ever national travel promotion and communications program in March 2010, and set a goal of attracting 100 million annual international visitors to the U.S. by 2021 back in 2012, Brand USA has seen tourism numbers steadily climb. Last year, the U.S. welcomed 70 million international visitors, and following the launch of the Canadian office, plans are underway to open offices next year in Chile, France, Southeast Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Scandinavia. This comes on the heels of President Obama’s call last month for a national tourism strategy, and within 90 days a strategy was delivered that engaged nine federal agencies.