It's hard to believe that the United States has never had a unified marketing effort for tourism - but that's about to change. The organization formed by Congress last year to market the United States to world visitors unveiled its strategy on Monday under a new name Brand USA.
The organization was formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, and is America's first-ever global consumer brand. As Brand USA Inc., the group introduced its global brand strategy before an international audience in London on Monday.
The move is the initial step in the development of the United States' first unified marketing effort. The first official advertising and marketing campaign to lure in visitors for leisure, business and scholarly purposes will begin in the spring of 2012, though the Web site is up and running at discoveramerica.com.
The logo adopted for the program was unveiled Monday and features the letters USA composed of multicolor dots with the Web address DiscoverAmerica.com underneath. The logo plays down any hint of patriotism and is meant to represent what Brand USA calls the United States of Awesome Possibilities.
According to Brand USA, the logo was created to be fresh, welcoming and inclusive. It's meant to represent both the diversity of the people and the land.
What is so compelling about the United States is that no one thing can explain who we are as a nation. Each visitor and each experience helps create the fabric of American culture, and Brand USA embodies this spirit, said Chief Marketing Officer Chris Perkins.
During the brand launch at London's British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the organization laid out its plans.
The United States offers a range of destinations and experiences that are unparalleled in the world market, said Brand USA's Chief Executive Officer Jim Evans. Now, through the creation of Brand USA, we are inviting the world's travelers to come to visit us, and experience the limitless possibilities for themselves.
The marketing campaigns, scheduled for next March, will focus on the great outdoors, urban excitement, culture and indulgence.
The US has garnered a reputation over the past decade for being unwelcoming. Omitting all nationalistic plugs, the newly-formed tourism board aims to invite the world's visitors with open arms to help lift the nation of out the economic doldrums.
Evans noted that Americans are viewed as arrogant and brash, never having actively asked tourists to come visit.
We're rebranding America for the first time, Evans said.
In 2010, the United States made $134.4 billion off international tourism. A record 60 million tourists came to visit, according to figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.
However, the vast majority of those visitors came over the border from Canada and Mexico, including many day-trippers.
Brand USA hopes to lure in more international tourists from outside North America. In 2010, just six percent of the international tourist arrivals were from Britain, five percent from Japan, three percent from Germany, and two percent from France. Worse still, just 1.45 million Chinese and Indians visited last year.
The United States still trails France as the world's premier tourist destination, but the government hopes to change that.
Tourism already accounts for 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product and about 7.5 million jobs. Washington has tapped into the tourism industry as a relatively fast way to propel the economy out of its post-recession woes.
The plan will not be easy. The application process for a U.S. visa is enough to scare many foreign tourists away. The daunting procedure can include interviews and fingerprinting - not to mention mounds of paperwork.
The U.S. plans to tackle this with a new visa waiver scheme for most Western European nations, Japan, and Australia.
The budget for the campaign, estimated at up to $200 million, will reportedly come from sources other than taxpayer dollars, funded through a combination of private sector investments and funds collected by the Department of Homeland Security from international visitors who visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
The campaign will use elements like social media and mobile media in addition to advertising, promotions and public relations.
Check out the new site and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...