The newly launched Discover America campaigns in Canada, the U.K. and Japan will not be derailed by changes in the top leadership of Brand USA, the marketing organization running the promotions, industry insiders told Travel Market Report.
Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta was appointed interim CEO of Brand USA last week following the resignation of Jim Evans. Evans served as CEO for the first year of Brand USA, a federal-private partnership charged with increasing international travel to the U.S.
Building on the momentum
Beteta, the interim CEO, was out of the country and unavailable for comment, but a source close to Brand USA told Travel Market Report that it is moving forward with its marketing efforts in its key target markets of Canada, Japan and the U.K.
Ongoing priorities include cultivating strong industry partnerships, including with travel agents and tour operators in target markets; “building out” cooperative marketing opportunities that attract private investment, and enhancing responsiveness and communications with government partners, the source said. (See sidebar.)
Evans’ resignation came on the same day that Commerce Secretary Bill Bryson resigned his post in the U.S. cabinet for health reasons.
Bryson’s resignation could have a greater impact on Brand USA’s future as the U.S.’s first national destination marketing organization. Bryson appointed the government travel advisory council that helped devise the tourism promotion strategy. (See “White House Launches National Tourism Strategy, an Historic First,” May 10, 2012.)
An industry lobbyist told Travel Market Report that Evans’ resignation reflects growing pains for the organization. At the same time, he said, Brand USA has a superb staff, as well as lots of support from within the industry and from the bipartisan Congressional Tourism Caucus.
But there are issues, this source said. “So many people want a piece of Brand USA, in terms of helping it to succeed,” that it was a challenge to manage those pressures while also establishing the organizational structure and managing relations with Congress.
“The destination marketing organizations, travel companies – everyone in the industry – wants it to succeed. A lot of people in the industry are very enthusiastic about Brand USA,” he said.
New CEO’s track record
Beteta, as CEO of Visit California, has one of the best track records in promoting tourism, along with experience in raising private sector matching funds and running a quasi-private destination marketing organization, according to the Washington lobbyist.
Visit California and Visit Florida, this source said, are probably the two most effective destination marketing organizations in the country and Beteta’s industry experience should benefit the fledgling Brand USA.
Especially important in the short term will be Beteta’s skill at raising private sector matching funds and in-kind contributions by the Sept. 30 deadline to receive federal government matching funds.
The U.S. will match private sector funds two to one – up to $100 million – with money raised by fees on foreign visitors who use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
In addition to launching the Discover America campaigns, Brand USA is establishing representative offices in 18 international regions covering over 40 countries, according to the Brand USA source, who noted that travel from these countries makes up 93% inbound traffic to the U.S.
Currently, representation is in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil.
“These representatives are actively engaged in developing programs and partnerships with travel trade, Visit USA groups and many other promotional partners,” said the Brand USA source.
The organization is also working closely with Visit USA Committees in about 43 countries. The committees are comprised of trade and travel industry related corporations, businesses and individuals, whose mission is to promote travel to the U.S.
In its first year, Brand USA has established partnerships with more than 250 industry organizations that will bring more than $10 million in industry cash contributions and more than $30 million of in-kind contributions, according to Brand USA’s press release announcing Evans’ resignation.
In a call to the industry to support Brand USA, National Tour Association president Lisa Simon told members of Tour Colorado in Denver that the industry must back Brand USA with “cash and in-kind investments to unlock federal funds set aside for its operation. I call on my industry colleagues to find ways to help.”