Brand USA, the destination-marketing organization for the United States, generated more than 3 million incremental visitors from around the globe during the past three years, according to a study recently released by Oxford Economics, an independent research firm based in Oxford, England.
Those international visitors accounted for $9.5 billion in incremental spending, which injected more than $21 billion into the U.S. economy. It also produced nearly $900 million in federal, state, and local taxes, and supported, on average, 50,000 incremental jobs each year.
“Everything we have accomplished has hinged on the steady support of our ever-expanding partner network and a globally coordinated marketing program that brings together our collective efforts,” said Christopher L. Thompson, Brand USA’s president and CEO.
A driving force of Brand USA’s marketing efforts, Thompson said, is the goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors to the United States in a single year by 2021. This is a target President Obama set in 2012 with the release of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, an initiative that is helping to create more U.S. jobs through the expansion of the tourism sector. Achieving this goal will require a nearly 5% compounded annual growth rate in visitation over the next six years, which Thompson says is a growing challenge.
“In the face of a strong dollar combined with lukewarm economic recovery in our mature source markets and slowing growth in our biggest emerging markets, impactful destination marketing is more important than ever.”
Thompson said visitation from countries where Brand USA actively markets is growing at a faster pace than overall visitation to the United States.
During fiscal year 2015 (FY2015), Brand USA made continued progress toward its mission of increasing international visitation and spend to the United States in order to fuel the nation’s economy. Highlights include:
- Generating 1.03 million incremental visitors to the United States, who spent $3.04 billion on fare receipts with U.S. carriers and other purchases during their visit—which resulted in $6.6 billion in total sales and nearly 45,000 incremental jobs.
- Expanded the USA consumer campaign from 11 markets in FY2014 to 12 markets in FY2015 (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and the United Kingdom). In total, these markets generate more than 80% of all international visitation to the United States.
- Launched 36 integrated media flights and expanded the number of Brand USA social channels to 45 worldwide.
- Continued strong and positive social sentiment and engagement across all of Brand USA’s digital channels—with 41.6 million engagements, a 4% increase from the prior year.
- Leveraged $64 million in contributed media from 45 global media partners to promote travel to the USA directly to consumers in numerous international markets.
- Significantly increased the effectiveness of our USA brand campaigns during FY2015—ranging from increases in intent to visit the USA (based on post-wave research) from 47% in Germany to 67% in China to 171% in Brazil — through a coordinated effort that improved ad recall and media efficiency.
- Kept overhead expenses to 9.19%—devoting more than 90% of Brand USA’s resources toward marketing and programs to increase international visitation (based on administrative expenses of $14.5 million and total expenses of $157.7 million).
- Began production of a giant-screen film celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service – and pre-sold 1 million tickets and confirmed distribution in more than 100 cities worldwide prior to the film’s release in February 2016. Of international movie-goers who have seen the film, 81% say they are much more likely or more likely to visit the USA, and 61% say they are more likely to select the USA over another destination for their next holiday.
- Launched a multi-channel culinary and great outdoors strategy featuring dynamic and expansive content hubs in five languages, including an accessible and inclusive Great Outdoors site for the visually, audio, physically, and cognitively impaired.
- Deployed numerous groundbreaking campaigns, including:
- Choose Your American Adventure with Expedia
- Great American Road Trip campaigns
- Flavors of the USA Videos with the Food Network International
- Award-winning Buzzfeed consumer campaigns
- High-impact media through Shanghai Metro and Cinema X in Seoul
- Google Lightbox
- Google maps and Instagram integration—a first for the industry
- Periscope live broadcast from Road Trip campaigns
- First-ever global Instagram relay with Helloworld and 12 key partners
- Consumer integration on BBC, STA, ESPN, Thomas Cook, and Travel Channel International
- Expanded the Brand USA travel inspiration guide to 10 languages and 17 markets with global distribution of more than 580,000 print copies.
- Increased the reach of the digital version of the Brand USA travel inspiration guide, generating nearly 48 million digital impressions through owned, earned, and paid promotions, netting almost three million page views—a 64% increase over the prior year.
- Nearly quadrupled global earned media impressions—from 648.4 million in FY2014 to 2.5 billion in FY2015, representing $210.4 million in advertising equivalency.
- Launched the Brand USA partner reporting portal on the corporate website, TheBrandUSA.com, enabling partners to gain real-time access to program results for their destination or travel brand.
- Presented at more than 100 industry events around the world.
- Honored with 28 marketing and destination excellence awards globally
- Maintained a partnership program retention rate of over 90%.
- Grew Brand USA’s partnership network from 475 partners through FY2014 to 577 through FY2015 (a 21% increase).
- Generated more than $100 million in industry contributions, including cash contributions of $47 million (42% of all contributions) and in-kind contributions of $80.5 million in recognized revenue (58% of all contributions).
“Our direct-to-consumer marketing continues to expand to new markets—and is now playing globally through valuable media partnerships. Our cooperative marketing opportunities are adding value and creating all-new platforms to showcase U.S. destinations and experiences to the world. Our travel trade outreach is forging new and exciting relationships with the travel trade around the world. We are collaborating as never before with our federal partners to tell the stories of our national treasures and deliver a welcome message to the world.”
Brand USA’s marketing programs and initiatives are designed to increase inbound visitor travel to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five territories of the USA, as well as promote tourism to rural and urban areas equally, including areas not traditionally visited by international travelers. To accomplish this, Brand USA utilizes a combination of brand marketing, public relations, travel trade outreach, and cooperative marketing programs that provide opportunities for partners of all shapes and sizes to participate.
Support for Brand USA’s operations comes from a combination of non-federal contributions from partner organizations representing destinations, travel brands and private-sector companies, and matching funds collected by the U.S. government from international visitors who travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
To view The Brand USA Effect – a video series with Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor with CBS News that tells the story of Brand USA and our impact on international travel visitation, click here.