As we go to press with this issue, the 2012 International Pow Wow is taking place here in Los Angeles. This has been a big week for the U.S. Travel Association, the sponsors of Pow Wow, in part because the event was the stage for the unveiling of the first-ever branding campaign for travel to the U.S., Brand USA. There is a lot of excitement around this campaign and much optimism about how this effort can help invigorate travel.
The campaign is strong. Using unique images and an original song by Roseanne Cash, the promotion avoids tiresome cliches about America and instead focuses on the individual freedoms we enjoy here, as well as the variety of experiences this country offers. I’m sure it will inspire many to travel here. I’m concerned, however, that simply inspiring foreign visitors may be a futile effort if we don’t continue to make the process easier for them to enter the country. Billboards and songs alone won’t make it any easier for a family in Brazil to navigate the arduous and costly process of getting a visa to visit the U.S. And no matter how many Chinese citizens are moved by this campaign, we are still asking them to jump over too many hurdles to get from inspiration to realization.
The U.S. finally has a much-needed new tool in the form of this branding campaign, but what we do to accompany this campaign is just as important. I know the U.S. Travel Association and the Brand USA board that created this new campaign understand all too well the follow up that needs to take place. They have done a remarkable job and have had great success lobbying Congress to make commonsense changes to streamline travel to the U.S. However, it’s up to all of us to make sure that, in the years going forward, momentum for these changes is not lost and that incoming politicians continue to understand what is at stake.
The U.S. Travel Association and Brand USA have started the ball rolling, but in order for this campaign to turn marketing into room nights, we will all have to do our part to keep it going.