They like us. They just like the USA a little more.
The fifth annual Country Brand Index report names the USA as the "top country brand" in the world, followed on the podium by Canada and Australia. It marks the first time the US of A has been number one on the charts. Australia had been first the last three years. Canada was second last year and again in 2009.
"It's logical to assume that the shift in the political climate and renewed optimism surrounding the election of President Obama was a key influencer in the U.S. topping the list," said Rene Mack, president of Weber Shandwick's Travel & Lifestyle Global Practice. The study was conducted by FutureBrand, a consultancy firm, and public relations firm Web Shandwick after a survey of 3,000 international business and leisure travellers.
While the USA was numero uno overall, Canada placed first in several categories; Best Country Brand for Families, Best Country Brand for Resort and Lodging Options (pretty good, I'd say), Best Country Brand for Safety, Best Country Brand for Political Freedom and, best of all, Best Country Brand You Would Most Like to Live In.
Canada came second in the category of best standard of living and was third in natural beauty, environmentalism and "easiest to do business in."
A quote in the report said Canada "continues to do an exceptional job with its branding. Using all the country has to offer, it promotes the experience of adventure, friendly people, diverse culture and beautiful landscapes."
Pretty dang good all around, I'd say.
The USA, in case you were wondering, was tops in Best for Business. But I didn't see any American first-place finishes in other categories, which is interesting. The USA did, however, make the top five in a number of categories where Canada didn't place, including best for advanced technology, best for quality products, best for nightlife (Canada didn't make the top five for nightlife? I guess the experts have never been to Oshawa) and best for shopping.
Here's the full top-10 list of Top Country Brands:
1. USA 2. Canada 3. Australia 4. New Zealand 5. France 6. Italy 7. Japan 8. UK 9. Germany 10. Spain
I'm not so sure I agree with some of the experts, however. Having just returned from Tahiti, I wouldn't rank it first for beaches. Great lagoons and beautiful water, but not a huge number of great beaches. Beaches are much better in Hawaii and Florida and California, although you don't want to swim in California's cool ocean waters in anything other than the heat of the summer.
By the way, the top five for beaches were Tahiti, Bermuda, Aruba, Barbados and the Bahamas.
I WOULD put Tahiti (see photo of Club Bali Hai resort in Moorea, below) first for natural beauty, yes.
And for rest and relaxation, definitely. So no quibbles there.
WEST JET WANDERINGS
Had a cup of coffee with the folks from West Jet and West Jet Vacations yesterday. They're making a big push on the vacations front these days, with 66 destinations in a dozen countries and 11 new ones this fall.
"It's our largest single expansion ever," said Gregg Saretsky, vice president of West Jet Vacations. "We're expecting a million visitors to the sun this year, a 45 per cent hike."
As for specific deals, he says Cuba remains hot, hot and still hot.
"You can get an all-inclusive deal including air, hotel, food and your alcohol for $599 from Toronto," he said. "That's cheaper than staying home."
Saretsky said Cuba expects to attract a million Canadians this year.
"It's interesting that the US might allow visitors to Cuba," he said. "That might drive rates up."
New West Jet destinations this year include Varadero, Cayo Coco and Holguin in Cuba, Turks and Caicos, St. Maarten, Freeport (Grand Bahamas), Miami, Atlantic City, Cozumel, Lihue (Kauai, Hawaii) and Ixtapa.
"We're the only carrier offering service to all four main islands in Hawaii; Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii," he said. "And we offer 74 weekly services to Las Vegas."
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY
Quebec’s Chateau Beauvallon has a special $99.99 rate available through Dec. 18. This lead-in per night rate applies to one-bedroom suites, outfitted with both a king-sized bed in the bedroom and a pull-down Murphy bed in the living room. For two-bedroom suites, the lead-in is $159 and for three-bedroom suites, $209. Each suite’s kitchenette is equipped with a stove top, microwave and a dishwasher. And more crucial for some, the bathrooms have heated floors. Chateau Beauvallon is on the doorstep of Mont Tremblant, offering every winter sport imaginable from skiing and snowboarding to dog-sledding, snowshoeing and snow tubing. See www.chateaubeauvallon.com.