Brand USA about to kick start a huge campaign ... 100 days to London Olympics
It still amazes me that the U.S. has never really had an organized tourism system.
I get dozens of emails a day from Colorado tourism or the San Francisco tourism folks or the city of New York or Miami. Perhaps in keeping with the whole "states rights" thing and distrust of central government that helps define the American spirit, there's been no consistent, government-led push for folks to visit the United States as a whole.
That's about to change. President Barack Obama has made it a goal to dramatically boost American tourism arrivals, and the new campaign is set to launch May 1 in Canada, Brazil and elsewhere on the planet.
Details will be outlined at the U.S. Travel "Pow Wow" meeting in Los Angeles next Monday, and I'll be there to check it out. Look for reports and tweets (you can find me on Twitter @jimbyerstravel) and blogs and stories in Star Travel as the new campaign rolls out.
Meanwhile, as part of today’s opening of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations’ Industry Summit, VISIT FLORIDA – the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida – announced its new founding partnership with Brand USA.
"Through its base commitment of $1 million and significant in-kind investments, VISIT FLORIDA joins Marriott International, the Walt Disney Company and Best Western International as Brand USA’s founding travel partners," officials said.
"We are incredibly proud and grateful that these iconic brands have chosen to invest at such a significant level in Brand USA," said CEO Jim Evans. "Recently President Obama called for a national travel and tourism strategy to attract more international visitors, and Brand USA is a major pillar of that. This is more than an investment in a marketing program – it is an investment in job creation and economic growth for hundreds of visitor destinations across America."
“Working in close partnership with Brand USA provides a tremendous opportunity for VISIT FLORIDA – and the entire Florida tourism industry – to achieve our vision of becoming the No. 1 travel destination in the world,” said Chris Thompson, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA.
In 2011, Florida welcomed an estimated 3.3 million Canadian visitors (a 6.3% increase over 2010) and 9.3 million overseas travelers (a 16.1% increase over 2010).
There's obviously a ton to sell in the U.S.: great cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco (see photo above left), L.A., Miami, Washington, New Orleans and Seattle; vast wilderness areas of the west with cowboys and incredible native history and craggy mountains and fiery red canyons; sweeping beaches in Florida and Hawaii (and don't forget Puerto Rico); remarkable music from jazz to bluegrass to hip hop to rock and roll to blues; a dizzying area of cuisine and lots, lots more.
Canadians are by far the biggest contributor to U.S. tourism, so it's going to be interesting to see how the U.S. casts itself in our market, as opposed to Brazil or India or China. The U.S. - and everyone else in the world - is coveting the Brazil market in particular, and China. Folks from those places obviously have a harder time getting to the U.S. than most of us do, but they tend to spend, spend, spend. Many U.S. jewelry shops and designer stores have added staff to speak Mandarin or Cantonese so they can appeal to wealthy Chinese shoppers, who seem to want nothing but the best.
It'd be nice if the U.S. shops did something for us, wouldn't it? I mean, would it be that hard for the Dolce and Gabbana store in Manhattan to hire a kid who's up to date on the NHL playoffs and can talk to us about the Sidney Crosby-Don Cherry tiff as we try out the newest, $15,000 handbag? Perhaps a Tim Hortons outlet inside the Tiffany shop on Fifth Avenue?
ONE HUNDRED DAYS TO LONDON
Seems amazing to me that the London Games can be only 100 days out. I thought it was just yesterday when we got word that the favoured French bid of Paris had once again fallen short and that London had confidently swept to victory. And now, it's only three months and a bit to the starting date, July 27.
Personally, I'm of two minds about the Olympics these days. I've loved covering the last six, but I'm a bit sick of the incredible money that has to go into these things. The last I heard was that the total for the Games in London was something in the 24 billion pound range; roughly $38 billion. And that's completely insane.
There's simply no way to recoup that kind of money. Sure, there will be a bit of a buzz and London folks will have a lovely party if they haven't skipped off to Southampton or Mallorca. They'll have a few new stadiums and arenas and, if they're lucky and smarter than folks in Athens and Beijing, those facilities won't sit empty or, as is the case in Athens with at least one outdoor arena, be used as a grazing spot for pigs.
But it won't be worth the money. It can't be. The security alone will be in the billions for London. And that money is all operating cost, with no benefit except a bit of extra cash in a policeman's wallet. I don't begrudge them that by any means, but you don't hold the Olympics to give cops more spending money.
The long-term tourism benefits are almost always illusory. Athens is hardly any further ahead than it was after the 2004 Games. Ditto for Beijing. Even Sydney, perhaps the best organized Summer Games ever, is crying the blues about lost opportunities for tourism in the wake of the 2000 Olympics.
It'll be a great party in London, I'm sure. But is it worth the price tag? I don't think so.
WESTJET AND THOMAS COOK
Interesting to see WestJet and Thomas Cook solidifying their relationship. Officials today said Thomas Cook Canada and WestJet Airlines have formed an "exclusive partnership, whereby the airline will now provide all seats for Thomas Cook’s tour operator brand Sunquest Vacations."
This decision takes effect for Sunquest’s winter 2012-2013 program, which commences in November 2012, and follows on the heels of the already planned summer flying program with WestJet.
Sounds like we'll be seeing more WestJet here in Ontario...