Brand USA on How to Reach Chinese Tourists

Thomas Garzilli, Chief Marketing Officer of Brand USA
Photo: Brand USA

Founded in 2011 under the Travel and Tourism Act, Brand USA is the destination marketing organization responsible for promoting the United States on the global stage. Since its inception, Brand USA has worked in close partnership with more than 700 organizations to invite travelers from around the world to explore the vast travel experiences and destinations in the United States. Today, Brand USA has a presence in 40 international markets, including China. Jing Travel spoke to Tom Garzilli, Chief Marketing Officer, on Brand USA’s efforts in China.

How long has Brand USA been in-market in China?

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 U.S. embassy and consulates. Today, Brand USA has established representative offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

Can you with us the market and travel trends for travelers 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 United States. Today, after nearly a decade of double-digit growth—averaging 24 percent per year since 2004—China dominates the rankings as the number one market for U.S. tourism exports in 2016 at $33 billion. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) at the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2016, there were 2.97 million arrivals to the U.S. from China, making China the fifth largest market in international visitation. Chinese travelers spend an average of $7,000 during their visits to the U.S. accounting for 61 percent of all U.S. 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 U.S. and their results?

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 U.S. – China tourism industry. As part of the initiative, Brand USA held its first mega familiarization (MegaFam) tour from China with 50 travel agents traveling to 11 U.S. 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 theaters. 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,” designed to inspire visitors to “plan a USA trip now.” Through the campaign, Brand USA illustrates the diversity of the U.S. and invites travelers to their own unique experiences. The website was established as part of the campaign in China.

Are there any new campaigns/partnerships planned?  

Our second giant-screen film entitled, “America’s Musical Journey,” starring famed singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc is scheduled to debut in February 2018 and rolled out to international markets, including in China, throughout the year. The new film will take audiences on a tour of some of the most iconic cities across the United States—exploring the diversity of experiences and destinations in the United States and celebrating American culture by telling its unique history through music. In our continued effort to leverage authentic voices and experiences, we’ve collaborated with individual influencers to reach and engage with travelers. Under the theme “One Big Welcome,” Brand USA is creating personalized, video welcome messages allowing people to talk briefly about their favorite U.S. places in an effort to invite prospective international travelers to visit.

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 $13.6 billion in incremental visitor spending—which has benefited the U.S. economy with nearly $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 United States is expected to increase by a total of 3.1 million visitors, a 121 percent increase through 2021.

Is the United States ready to welcome the influx of Chinese visitors?

One of Brand USA’s goals is to help U.S. destinations be more prepared for the influx of travelers 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 U.S. destinations.

What can U.S. destinations do to prepare and also attract more visitors from China?

Both the United States and China are large, diverse countries with tremendous opportunities to educate one another about language, culture, destinations, and experiences available to visitors, which is key when it comes to welcoming international travelers. U.S. 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 U.S.