CHINA/USA. Brand USA is the destination marketing organisation responsible for promoting the USA on the global stage. Chief Marketing Officer Tom Garzilli recently spoke to Jing Travel – a sister-title to Jing Daily, partner in an information-sharing alliance with The Moodie Davitt Report – about its activities in China.
Brand USA was founded in 2011 under the Travel and Tourism Act. It has worked in partnership with more than 700 organisations to invite travellers from around the world to explore the travel experiences and destinations in the USA. Today, Brand USA has a presence in 40 international markets, including China.
Jing Travel: How long has Brand USA been in-market in China?
Tom Garzilli: Brand USA first engaged the China market in 2012 through in-market representation to reach the travel trade and travel media and collaboration with the US embassy and consulates. Today, Brand USA has established representative offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.
Can you share with us the market and travel trends for travellers from this market? Has that changed compared to when Brand USA first entered this market?
A decade ago, China ranked seventh in terms of total tourism-related spending in the USA. Today, after nearly a decade of double-digit growth—averaging +24% per year since 2004—China dominates the rankings as the number one market for US tourism exports in 2016 at US$33 billion.
According to the National Travel and Tourism Office at the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2016, there were 2.97 million arrivals to the USA from China. This makes China the fifth largest market in international visitation. Chinese travellers spend an average of US$7,000 during their visits to the USA, accounting for 61% of all US services exports to China.
What were some of the major initiatives/campaigns Brand USA has launched in this market to attract more Chinese visitors to the USA?
One of the biggest initiatives was the launch of the ‘U.S.-China Tourism Year’ in 2016 in recognition of the strengthened cooperation and steady development of the US-China tourism industry. As part of the initiative, Brand USA held its first mega familiarisation (MegaFam) tour from China with 50 travel agents traveling to 11 US destinations.
In June 2017, Brand USA partnered with Youku for the digital launch of ‘America Wild: National Parks Adventure’ – making China the first global market to be granted access to the film outside of theatres. Just four months after its online debut, the film reached its first one million views online and is still available to view on Youku.
Also in 2017, Brand USA launched a new interactive consumer campaign, ‘All Within Your Reach’. It is designed to inspire visitors to ‘plan a USA trip now’. Through the campaign, Brand USA illustrates the diversity of the USA. and invites travellers to share their own unique experiences. The website gousa.cn was established as part of the campaign in China.
How many Chinese visitors is Brand USA targeting to attract within the next five years?
The campaigns and marketing initiatives that Brand USA has launched over the past four years, together with our partners, have helped welcome 4.3 million incremental international visitors and US$13.6 billion in incremental visitor spending. This has benefited the US economy with nearly US$30 billion in total economic impact and has supported, on average, 50,900 incremental jobs a year.
In the next year, we will continue to build on this momentum to support the United States National Travel and Tourism Strategy to welcome 100 million annual visitors by 2021. China will be a large part of accomplishing this goal. According to the NTTO, Chinese tourism to the USA is expected to increase by a total of 3.1 million visitors, a +121% increase through 2021.
Is the USA ready to welcome the influx of Chinese visitors?
One of Brand USA’s goals is to help US destinations be more prepared for the influx of travellers from China by providing them with information and tools to welcome visitors from that market. In fact, a major part of Brand USA’s efforts during the 2016 ‘U.S.-China Tourism Year’ was developing a toolkit that is now available online for US destinations.
What can US destinations do to prepare and also attract more visitors from China?
Both the USA and China are large, diverse countries with tremendous opportunities to educate one another about language, culture, destinations, and experiences available to visitors. This is key when it comes to welcoming international travellers. US destinations and brands with experience welcoming visitors from China have established best practices, and Brand USA is continuing to reach out to those partners to implement their successful practices to the entirety of the USA.
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