Discover America to Target Agents in Canada, Japan, U.K.
Travel agents in Canada, the U.K. and Japan will be targeted by Brand USA as part of its drive to increase inbound travel to the U.S.
Brand USA, the public-private organization spearheading the Discover America marketing program, plans to hire sales and marketing representatives to call on overseas travel agents and tour companies, Joel Secundy, vice president for strategic outreach for Brand USA, told Travel Market Report.
The idea is to work with the trade in core source markets to increase vacation visits to the U.S.
The trade portion of the Brand USA marketing program will include the ability for agencies to link to the Discover America website.
The organization also envisions cooperative marketing efforts that will include collateral materials, according to Secundy.
Next up: Brazil, South Korea
The Discover American campaign was launched recently in Canada, the U.K. and Japan, Secundy told a meeting in Washington, D.C., where the Brand USA strategy was presented to key travel industry leaders earlier this week.
Brazil and South Korea are next in the lineup. They are the most promising growth markets for leisure travel to the U.S., he said.
A first for the U.S.
Brand USA was created as a result of the U.S. Travel Promotion Act, establishing a public-private partnership between the travel industry and the U.S. government dedicated to increasing international visitation.
The federal government is joining the U.S. travel industry in the new Discover America campaign in hopes of reversing a 10-year decline in U.S. market share that came amid a sharp increase in international tourism overall.
The effort marks the first time the U.S. government has been so heavily involved in promoting international tourism, according to travel industry members. Historically, such promotions have been left to individual states and major destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas.
Grassroots Travel Summit
The Obama Administration and members of Congress from both parties want to increase international visitors to create more jobs, improve the balance of trade and burnish the image of the U.S. in ways that only travel can do, said travel leaders who spoke at the 2012 Grassroots Travel Summit in Washington this week.
The summit involved members of every major trade group in the U.S.
Overcoming barriers to entry
After intensive lobbying by the U.S. travel industry, the federal government is working to improve the process for obtaining visitor visas, especially in growth markets of Brazil, China and India. It is also expanding the Visa Waiver Program.
Visa issues and an unpleasant entry process at major gateways are barriers to reversing the decline in international tourism, said Todd Davidson, the Oregon state travel director who chairs the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which consults with government agencies on travel issues.
Visa improvements seen
The visa process is markedly improving in Brazil, Davidson said, and the Visa Waiver program is expanding from its current lineup of 36 countries. Taiwan is in line to become a Visa Waiver country, and Brazil is “on the horizon” for the program, according to Davidson.
“We are finding tremendous energy” in the federal government to stimulate inbound travel, because it is a primary driver of exports for the U.S. economy and a major creator of jobs, said Davidson.
Federal agencies are “taking very seriously” President Obama’s Executive Order earlier this year to boost travel – especially international travel, he said.
The travel industry must continue to press for adequate staffing at customs and ensure that the State Department provides accurate and transparent information on visa policies to ward off dishonest visa brokers in source markets, Davidson said.
Davidson was enthusiastic about the Brand USA initiative, saying it creates unprecedented opportunities for the U.S. travel industry.
“We are at a moment in time unlike any other we have experienced,” said Davidson. “We are finding a much greater awareness of the importance of our industry at all levels of government and in the private sector as well.”