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Letter from the President & CEO
April 6, 2016

Christopher Thompson, President & CEO, Brand USAOn March 4, six years ago, President Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act into law. Provisions of the legislation led to the creation of Brand USA. Our mandate was clear: Lead the nation’s first global-marketing campaign to promote the United States as a premier travel destination in the international marketplace. In coordination with our network of nearly 600 partners worldwide, we work to harness the power of tourism to propel our nation’s economy.

With the support of our many partners, Brand USA has grown from a start-up organization (that launched its first full year of operation in 2012 with only 89 partners) to an organization that has worked with and been supported by nearly 600 partners worldwide. Working with and through the support of these partners, Brand USA has been able to:

  • Achieve our targets for contributions each year since our inception, including cash contributions of $45 million and in-kind contributions of $70 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
  • Increase the number of partner programs and opportunities four times over from 25 in FY 2012 to more than 100 programs with 200 opportunities in 20 markets today.
  • Triple our international-representation network – from four offices covering seven markets in FY 2012 to 17 offices that serve 24 markets today.
  • Nearly double the number of markets where we have a fully deployed marketing strategy, from eight markets to 14 markets where we have activated all three phases of our marketing (consumer, co-op and trade) initiatives.
  • More than triple the reach of our consumer campaigns from three markets in FY 2012 to 14 markets that generate nearly 85 percent of all inbound travel to the USA.
  • Nearly quadruple the number of international markets – from 10 to almost 40 – where we have a marketing presence with at least two of the three types of Brand USA marketing initiatives in place.
  • Establish and maintain a partner program retention rate of 90 percent or higher from FY 2013 to present.
  • Develop and implement the first-ever MegaFam in May 2013 and subsequently expand the MegaFam program – from one international market visiting 18 states in FY 2013 to seven markets this year (Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Kingdom) visiting 18 states. By the end of this year, Brand USA MegaFam participants will have visited 47 states since the program launched three years ago.
  • Increase the number of trade shows at USA pavilions from 17 shows in FY 2013 to more than 40 shows in 19 countries and more than 1,000 exhibiting partners.

According to studies by Oxford Economics, over the past two years, Brand USA has worked with its partners to welcome two million incremental international visitors to the United States. This has pumped $15 billion into the U.S. economy and supported an average of 50,000 incremental jobs during each of the past two years.

We will see the results of our third annual return-on-investment study this spring.

In the meantime, I am honored to share more of the continued progress and effectiveness of our marketing efforts over the past year:

  • We saw an increase in the effectiveness of our USA brand campaigns during FY 2015. This registered as rising “intent to visit the United States” responses in Germany (47 percent), China (67 percent) and Brazil (171 percent).
  • An increase occurred in the number of partners who participated in Brand USA co-op marketing programs from 15 in FY 2014 to 32 in FY 2015, which included 30 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • The number of partners who participated in the Brand USA “Inspiration Guide” expanded by a third – from 135 partners in FY 2014 to 180 in FY 2015. We also increased the reach of the digital guide by 64 percent, with 2.4 million page-views.

As we move forward, we are building on these achievements through our current programs and activities.

New USA Consumer Campaign

This month, we launched a new, multi-dimensional marketing campaign. The campaign underscores the proximity and interconnectedness of diverse travel experiences available to travelers within a five-hour radius of popular USA gateway cities.

Our “All Within Your Reach” campaign, now underway through September in all 14 of our markets, features online video and digital-display advertising that drives viewers to the campaign’s landing page and nine newly-created destination landing hubs. Content includes at least six experience-based USA itineraries readily accessible to each featured gateway destination.

We want to provide our international visitors with the information and tools to create travel packages that feature both iconic and lesser known (and often, surprising) attractions and destinations – all within their reach during a single trip to the United States.

China Initiatives

Nearly 40 of our U.S. travel-industry partners (representing 21 organizations) joined us for our first-ever sales mission to China. The nine-day itinerary included the Guangzhou International Travel Fair in Guangzhou, then Beijing and, finally, Shanghai. Throughout the Feb. 24-March 4 trip, our partners gained unique insight into the outbound Chinese travel market and participated in more than 2,000 business-to-business meetings.

On Feb. 29, our partners joined in launching the U.S.-China Tourism Year in Beijing, where we hosted hundreds of U.S. and Chinese tourism leaders and government officials.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping – during their meeting last September – jointly designated 2016 as the year of increased cooperation between our two countries, highlighted by enhanced tourism activity that benefits both the U.S. and China. The year also promotes cultural understanding and an appreciation of U.S. and Chinese natural resources.

Our marketing initiatives, in connection with the U.S.-China Tourism Year, focus on education, promotion and sharing.

  • Education: Our U.S. travel-industry partners can use our resources to implement “China-ready” welcome programs. These programs, such as language interpretation, allow U.S. hosts to make their Chinese visitors more comfortable during their trips here. We also are planning road shows and expanded agent training (using our USA Discovery Program) in China.
  • Promotion: We are planning our first MegaFam for Chinese travel agents. We are also further developing in-market social-media outreach, a brand campaign and co-op marketing.
  • Sharing: We intend to share the elements of our social-media marketing through content hubs online.

We also have created an online toolkit in connection with the U.S.-China Tourism Year, available here. This toolkit allows U.S. destinations and organizations to both post and access information – such as events, activities, resources and marketing programs – related to this tourism year. It is a comprehensive, online hub that makes it easier to stay informed about the latest developments regarding the Chinese travel market.

China is the fourth-largest source market for international tourism to the United States. Over two million Chinese travelers visited the U.S. during 2014, a 20 percent increase over the previous year. We expect China to become our number-one long-haul source market within another few years.

National Parks Adventure

Our acclaimed giant-screen film, National Parks Adventure, is being released globally following the successful February premiere screenings in Washington, D.C. and London.

It will be shown in more than 30 U.S. states and a dozen countries over the next year. We estimate that four million viewers will see the film in Japan, India, the U.K., Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and other locations.

Most recently, it opened in Mexico City and in Copenhagen through our partnership with the Visit USA Committee in that city.

The film, which has received terrific reviews, is a tribute to the centennial of the National Park Service this year. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Robert Redford, the film depicts the travels of a world-class mountaineer, an adventure photographer and an artist as they explore the parks. Our partner, award-winning MacGillivray Freeman Films, captured the nation’s awe-inspiring great outdoors in their filming of 30 U.S. national parks for this project.

World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) hosted its annual global summit on April 6-7 in Dallas. Brand USA was proud to be a sponsor of this high-profile event where Brand USA vice chair, Tom Klein, was co-chair of the host committee.

I was privileged to join Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Brand USA board chair Arne Sorenson, U.S. Travel Association President & CEO Roger Dow and other travel and tourism leaders in the opening session of this summit to showcase the success of our public-private partnership in the USA. You can watch a recording of this session here.

As part of our joint sponsorship of the event, I participated with U.S. Travel Association President & CEO Roger Dow in a joint press conference for all media at WTTC.  You can watch the press conference here.

Board Meeting Recap

At our Board of Directors meeting in March, we reported a strong financial position with excellent cash reserves. Our financials reflect a resourceful, committed and fiscally healthy organization.

This board meeting in particular was a great example of our public-private partnership. We had Kelly Craighead, Executive Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office, join the meeting and discuss our joint efforts. Additionally, the majority of the meeting was a public session, which truly showcased the commitment and engagement of our board members.

Our annual report is due to the Department of Commerce on May 15 and we have much to share. You can take a quick look at a snapshot of our Q1 and Q2 results in our most recent sizzle reel.

With an aggressive body of work associated with our FY16 marketing plan, the launch of the film, and the Year of Tourism with China, these have been as busy a few months as most to date. We look forward to much of the same accomplishment and success in the months ahead.

Together, we are marketing the USA!

Chris Thompson
President & CEO