Increased competition on the global travel market has made it more important than ever for the US to pursue growth in international visitation, according to Kelly Craighead, Executive Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office at the US Department of Commerce: “The global growth of, and competition for, outbound travel represents an unprecedented opportunity to increase international tourism in the US.
“According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international visitors spent an estimated $1.2 trillion globally on travel and tourism in 2013. However, the US share of global expenditures has declined over the past decade.”
Craighead noted the importance of Brand USA‘s campaign in increasing tourism traffic to the US: “As the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organisation, Brand USA has been doing a remarkable job of marketing and promoting the United States in our primary, and some our our secondary, markets … Their work to increase awareness and enhance the image of the US as a travel destination is deeply supportive of our goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors by 2021.
“The US is doing a better job of marketing itself as a premier travel destination and letting the world know we welcome visitors and want repeat customers. We are making it simpler and more efficient for eligible travellers to come to the US by expanding pre-clearance agreements with multiple countries, lowering visa interview wait times in key markets like China and Brazil, extending visa validity with China from one to 10 years, and working to deliver a ‘best-in-class’ international arrivals to our visitors at our airports.”
Focus on China
China is one of the biggest factors in the quest to reach the 2021 goal. In the first year following the visa validity extension with China, the US has adjudicated 2.85 million non-immigrant visas for Chinese citizens, reflecting a 53 per cent increase over the prior year.
The US-China Tourism Year, announced by President Obama and President Xi, is another key factor of the partnership between the two countries, Craighead commenting, “[It’s] an important opportunity to expand and deepen cooperation between the US and China and enhance our mutual cultural understanding.”
Brand USA projects that within three years China could become the largest source market for long-haul travel to the US.
“China has an opportunity to be the greatest contributor to our path to 100 million visitors,” says Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, commenting that the marketing organisation is trying to help the US become “China-ready”.
To read Brand USA’s 2014 China Tourism Market Update click here.