Brand USA has a new movie out – its second in two years – both of which have been made to showcase American destinations and increase visitation. ‘America’s Music Journey’, in theatres now, follows the hugely successful ‘National Parks Adventure’ documentary in 2016, which was seen by six million people, 81% of whom say they will now consider a trip to the U.S. These films are just some of the innovative ways Brand USA is capturing the hearts of travellers, particularly Canadians who the organization say is a “top priority market”. In this edition of Friday Five, we sit down with Anne Madison, Chief Strategy & Communications Officer, to talk about these latest initiatives, the importance of Canada, and what travel agents need to know in order to sell the United States.
1. How important is the Canadian market, and how many Canadians visited in 2017? Up/down from 2016? And how are visitation numbers in 2018 so far?
Canada remains a top priority market for Brand USA with strong long-term prospects. In 2016, Canada was the largest source market for international visitation to the United States (19.29 Million), and the third highest market in international spend ($19.1 Billion) following China and Mexico. According to the most recent National Travel and Tourism Office forecast, the United States is expected to see a 22% percent increase in visitor volume from Canada through 2022 19.29 million visitors from Canada in 2016 to 23.47 million visitors in 2022.
2. Last month, Brand USA launched a new trade website. Is the organization actively focusing more on its trade partners? Can you speak to the importance of travel agents, and how they directly impact visitation?
Yes, Brand USA is committed to expanding efforts with the travel trade, focusing on unexpected destinations across the United States to, through and beyond the gateway cities. The recently launched site visittheusa.ca/traveltrade includes itineraries that feature more than 100 overnight destinations and visits to nearly 300 cities and towns in 42 states and the District of Columbia. What I love about it is that the itineraries focus on “travel like a local” destinations that will inspire Canadians’ love of adventure and the unexpected. Our objective is to help travel agents and tour operators promote the broad range of itineraries and USA trips directly to their consumers. The travel trade site is also helpful in that it includes a comprehensive tool kit for the travel trade –including access to Brand USA’s asset management system (with photography and videos promoting U.S. destinations and experiences), a USA map to make trip planning easier, and a link to our USA Discovery Program to help the trade as they sell these unique USA experiences to their clients.
3. What are some of the challenges in marketing USA as a top destination nowadays?
The main challenges we are seeing is that other international destinations are increasing their marketing efforts to capture a larger share of the world’s travelers. In order to break through the multiple, competing messages travelers are hearing, we are focused on innovative ways to engage potential travelers. For example, Brand USA is introducing more creative programming, including: the release of our second film for IMAX® and other giant-screen theaters, “America’s Musical Journey,” the launch of our connected TV channel, Go USA TV, and other high-profile marketing efforts that engage travelers in unique ways such as “Hear the Music, Experience the USA.” By focusing on content about the USA that entertains, we are finding powerful ways to connect with consumers and inspire them to plan their trip to visit the USA. As far as we can tell, we are the first destination marketing organization to create a connected TV channel and we see the value as people want to be entertained while learning about a destination. Since we launched the channel in November of last year, there have been more than 2 million views—and as we continue to add more content, including episodic content, we believe that number will continue to rise.
We do know that our marketing strategies are working. In fact, a new study by Oxford Economics (just released a couple weeks ago) reveals that over the past five years, Brand USA generated: 5.4 million incremental visitors, $17.7 billion in incremental spend, $5 billion in federal, state and local taxes, $38.4 billion in total economic impact and more than 51,000 incremental jobs supported, on average, each year. This showcases the value of Brand USA as a destination marketing organization both nationally and internationally.
4. With air connectivity better than ever for Canadians and a plethora of choices out there when it comes to destinations, why choose the United States? What makes the USA a ‘better’ choice for Canadians than other destinations?
The United States and Canada have a strong affinity for one another—and our two destinations offer the world some of the most diverse landscapes and experiences in the world—yet in many ways our two countries are vastly different and therefore provide some exciting, unique, and nearly limitless travel opportunities. And you can’t beat the proximity of our two countries to one another. That’s an incredible value proposition.
5. What do you want travel agents to know in 2018? Any updates?
Canada continues to be one of our most important markets—and we are building upon the already strong investment we’ve made in this market by exploring new ways to work with the travel trade. The travel trade site we have launched, the itineraries we are continuing to develop, and the expansion of our USA Discovery Program are just a few examples. In addition to these successful programs, we are also exploring other opportunities to expand our work with travel agents and other members of the travel trade.