CEO Q&A: Jim Evans, Brand USA (Extended)

Brand USA president and CEO Jim Evans talks to Bernadette Casey about the nation's first integrated campaign to boost travel to the US

Jim Evans, president and CEO of Brand USA, talks to Bernadette Casey about the nation's first integrated campaign to boost US travel.

Late last year, Brand USA announced an expansive campaign to overcome negative stereotypes about US travel. What will be the focus of the initiative's first wave?
When we launch the campaign in May, it will be our nation's first collaborative global marketing effort to encourage foreign visitors to explore the endless travel possibilities in the US. It's an incredible opportunity and a huge undertaking because this is the first time it's been done.

The official unveiling occurs at one of the largest travel trade show events — International Pow Wow — on April 22 in front of more than 1,000 US travel organizations and 1,200 international and domestic travel buyers representing 70 countries. Together these buyers and sellers will be negotiating business that will generate an estimated $3.5 billion in future USA travel.

The marketing campaign will include TV, signage, digital, mobile, print, and social media. The first wave will begin in May in Canada, Japan, and the UK. Brazil and South Korea will be added in June. We'll announce even more markets in July.

Our marketing strategy will focus on connecting travelers with the limitless and inspiring experiences the US offers, from the great outdoors to culture, from simple indulgences to urban excitement. We're excited to show the world what we have to offer.

How will you partner with the Obama administration or build on the momentum of his call for a national tourism strategy that will boost the economy?
That's another unique aspect of Brand USA. It's the only collaborative effort that brings together the efforts of the administration, the travel industry and some of the world's largest brands — and the effort is well worth it.   
Over the past 10 to 12 years, the US has not kept pace with growth in global travel. In fact, our share of long-haul travel dropped form 17% in 2000 to 12% in 2010. Had we kept pace, there would have been an additional 78 million visitors to the US spending more than $600 billion and creating 467,000 jobs annually. 

We have an opportunity to change that. With global travel expected to double to $2.1 trillion by 2020, the travel industry and other leading businesses can build on that momentum by bringing the collective power of our marketing efforts to reach foreign tourists. We'll do so through our global marketing campaign, cooperative marketing and co-branding programs, as well as in-kind contributions.

As part of this effort, we are also building the largest network of local marketing representatives, brand ambassadors if you will, who will be on the ground internationally to comprehensively connect with the largest generators of in-bound US travel.

Talk about how key business partnerships with influential names such as Marriott and Disney will help expand your message.
The industry is clearly seeing the value in this effort and what we can accomplish by coming together. Leading travel partners Disney, Marriott, and Best Western each have committed $1 million to the effort, while several other travel and business leaders are also stepping up to provide support.

Through a coordinated strategic effort, we can reach more people and be exponentially more effective in significantly increasing the US share of the global travel market. That effort includes working and leveraging the collective marketing expertise of Brand USA, the industry, destination management organizations, convention and visitors bureaus, and the media.

We are also engaging leading businesses outside of the travel industry because virtually every sector of the US economy will benefit from increased international visitation, from hotels and restaurants, to transportation and retail and more.

You recently testified before the Senate. What other strategies are you using to engage policymakers?
We are in constant contact with the administration and members of Congress. We work closely with the Department of Commerce and Homeland Security. We are also fortunate to get the input of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Brand USA was launched with the strong support of both Republicans and Democrats. That says something about the importance of what we are doing and what we can accomplish as a country to support the economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs through the power of travel.

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