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20 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW USA Mirrors in Public-Priv Established by the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, Brand USA spearheads America’s first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and communicate U.S. entry/exit policies and procedures. The public-private entity began operations in May 2011 and does business as Brand USA. Brand USA works in close partnership with the travel industry to maximize the economic and social benefits of travel. Through its call to action-- Discover America-- Brand USA inspires travelers to explore the United States of America’s boundless possibilities. The program’s activities are funded through a combination of private sector investment and matching funds collected by the U.S. government from international visitors who come to USA under the Visa Waiver Program. Christopher L Thompson President and CEO of Brand USA Christopher L. Thompson is President and CEO of Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. Thompson has nearly 30 years’ experience in tourism, a nearly unprecedented track record in destination marketing on both a domestic and international level, and a reputation for building collaborative and productive relationships across the industry and with government partners. Prior to joining Brand USA on November 1, 2012, Thompson led the state of Florida’s destination marketing efforts as president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. Under his leadership, Florida realized record growth in international visitation. He was one of the industry leaders who helped lead the effort to gain support for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act. He subsequently became a key member of the task force to guide its implementation and the launch of the Corporation for Travel Promotion (which today does business as Brand USA). A Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) since May 2010, Thompson has been a member of and served on the leadership boards of numerous national, regional, state and local trade associations and organizations. ITB Berlin News talked to Chris Thompson about the Brand USA programme, the progress, and the challenges. Why does the United States need Brand USA? Isn’t travel to the U.S. booming if in 2011 you saw 62 million international visitors spent 3 billion on goods & services? While the United States welcomed 60 million visitors in 2010, over the last decade, its world market share has plummeted as travel has exploded across the globe. The U.S. share of global travel spending fell from 17.2% in 2000 to an estimated 11.6% in 2010. Other countries including France, the United Kingdom and Australia, have promoted themselves successfully for years, and now the United States has chosen to get in the game, to repair and reinvigorate our nation’s image and recapture our market share. Why doesn’t the campaign include the most recognizable landmarks and locations that most people associate with the United States? The iconic locations and landmarks of the United States will be an important part of our marketing effort—and we will feature destinations (from the most well-known to the lesser known areas of the United States) in other advertising and marketing initiatives through our coop marketing with our Partners, such as destination management companies, convention and visitors bureaus and travel brands. The focus of the campaign is to inspire travelers to come to the United States—and to see us again or for the first time— through a new lens. With that in mind, we want to convey the idea of the United States of America—what is new, unknown or unexpected about the USA. How did you select your launch markets? Why did you choose the UK, Canada and Japan first? Our decision was based entirely on where we believe our advertising campaign will achieve the greatest possible ROI. We took a number of variables into consideration: VOLUME: # of visitors from each country; VALUE: the total revenue value of tourism from that country; GROWTH: YOY growth (# tourists + overall revenue); COST: Cost of buying media in country EASE OF ENTRY: An assessment of barriers (existing visa requirements, waiting period, political climate) What is the focus of the campaign? Our goal is nothing short of rekindling the world’s love affair with the USA– the place, the spirit and the dream. This campaign will spread USA’s welcoming message around the world, inviting travelers to visit us and “Discover this land, like never before” Did international consumers provide any input or feedback into the development of the campaign creative? We started with research. We wanted to uncover existing perceptions about the USA so we performed surveys and held town halls. And what we found wasn’t all that surprising, but it was sometimes hard to hear. Some feel we haven’t been very welcoming. Other’s feel like with new shiny options like Asia and Dubai the USA has become almost “middleaged”. And others think they already know all there is to know. The real challenge was to get people around the world to see us again, as though for the first time. We wanted to remind them that we ARE a land of possibilities, both personal and experiential. But do it in a way that felt earnest and welcoming to all. ITB BERLIN NEWS • Friday 8 th March 2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW 21 Own Diversity ate Push for Tourism Where will the consumer advertising campaign run next ? The campaign is running again right now in Japan, the UK, and Canada, and later in the year in Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, and South Korea. It includes TV, digital, out-of-home, and print advertising to showcase the diversity of experiences available in the United States. We are excited to announce at ITB Berlin that we are launching the campaign in Germany in November to capture a peak travel planning period. The campaign will run initially for two months and then again in the spring. Badlands National Park, South Dakota After your first 100 days on the job, what do you see as results of the Brand USA efforts? I’m pleased to report that we are well on our way completing a strong first year of operations— due in large part to the support from the industry. Following the strong inaugural brand campaign launched in Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom last year—intent to travel from those markets increased significantly (12% in Canada, 14% in Japan, and 14% in the United Kingdom). We also established travel trade and media outreach in 19 markets, opened international representation offices in eight markets, initiated a Tourism Exchange Year with Japan, held our first sales mission (to India) and, together, created the largest brand presence ever for the United States at 12 key international trade shows. But these are The Brand USA logo welcomes the world to experience the boundless possibilities in America…It celebrates the idea that no one thing defines the USA. just a few of the highlights of the past year. What do you see as your biggest challenge? The whole concept of a public-private partnership is to share knowledge and invest in partnership with the private sector. Now that I am in this job, I can see this Administration has embraced tourism like no other. When President Obama visited at Disney and publicly said it was important to increase international tourism that mobilized nine federal agencies to make this a priority. For the career government service employees in these agencies, this brought out the significance of tourism and its role as a creator of jobs. Now this Administration in its second term has brought a formula for our brand and motivation we never had before. This affects our overall ability to be effective. Our biggest challenge as USA’s destination marketing organization, in our second year of operation, is to meet the high expectation and we have met those expectations and we need to stay ahead of big expectations. You are promoting your partnership programme. Do you have any success you can point to? We can point to two examples of what we think works. The two pillars of our value proposition are coop marketing and platform-creation. First, British Airways came forward, partnering with us using tickets and their marketing assets. We are bringing 100 agents over to the USA to show what we have to offer... that’s a good example. We create a platform that our partners can use. Second, the ESPN brand has tremendous relevance and is now our international content partner going to UK and across Europe. We share the same targets and audience and together we will have a huge integrated platform combining TV, web, social media print… With our help they are creating the United States of Sports: for each of 50 states ESPN will create and produce individual vignettes that will identify the sports and sports activities available in each state. We are excited about the opportunities that the world’s largest tourism and travel fair, ITB Berlin, will provide us all in one location at one time. [Interview by Bob snyder] Hall 2.1 For industry or partner information about Brand USA, visit For consumer information about travel experiences in the United States, please visit Brand USA’s consumer website at ITB BERLIN NEWS • Friday 8 th March 2013

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