Comments /2544 Views / Tuesday, 10 January 2017 00:00
In my view one of the most talked about events of 2016 was the US Presidential Elections. The market share of the two candidates kept rolling in the forties and the final tally resulted in Clinton garnering 64.7 million votes against the two-tier system winner Trump, who secured 62.7 million votes. I am sure this would have had a strong impact on Brand USA and tourism in particular.
US Tourism down by 2.4%
However, the numbers say something different. Whilst overall travel grew by 4% globally in 2016, for the first seven months the performance of US tourism in terms of international visits, which stood at 42.8 million, were down 2% (-2.4%) when compared to the same period in 2015 which is strange given the push that Brand USA got through global travel shows such as World Travel Mart (WTM), ITB and ATM to name a few.
Whilst the top inbound markets continued to be Canada and Mexico, non-resident visits from Canada were down 7% (-6.7%) while visits from Mexico grew 9% (8.5%). The United Kingdom (-9.7%), Japan (-10.2%) and China (excluding Hong Kong) (-33.0%) rounded out the top five.
Five of the inbound overseas regional markets posted increases in non-resident visits in July 2016, with Western Europe, South America, the Middle East and Oceania posting declines.
This needs a deep dive so that course correction can be done in the future I guess. Maybe there can be some impact due to the elections but another thought is that it gave a stronger reason to visit the US given the high share of voice (SOV) the US had in the media.
Deep dive - US
Visitation through the top 15 ports of entry accounted for 85% of all overseas visits, over a half of one percentage point higher than last year. The top three ports - New York JFK, Miami and Los Angeles - accounted for 41% of all overseas arrivals, slightly higher than last year. Nine of the top 15 ports posted single-digit increases in arrivals. One port, Agana, Guam, posted a double-digit increase.
Pleasure travel vs. business travel
Of the top 20 overseas countries with visits to the United States, 90% or more of the visits recorded from Argentina (93.9%), Venezuela (90.1%) and Ecuador (94.4%) constituted pleasure travel. On the other hand, 20% or more of visits to the US recorded from Germany (24.3%), Italy (20.9%), the Netherlands (23.7%) and Ireland (20.2%) consisted of business travel. Of all the visits to the US, 81.8% represented pleasure travel and 14.6% represented business travel which is interesting given that Brand USA has increased its travel clientele but the issue is that the eight markets that were identified in the Brand USA campaign have not yielded the desired results.
Does brand value drive tourism?
The challenge at hand conceptually is does brand value drive tourism or should tourism be evaluated purely on destination marketing capability. While the latest brand value survey conducted by Brand Finance shows a drop in overall tourism numbers in the US, Brand USA continues its domination of the Brand Finance Nation Brands report, with the brand valued at $ 19.3 trillion and is three times the value of second-placed China, whose brand value is $ 6.4 trillion.
Though the actions of the US on the international stage are frequently questioned and polarising, decades as the preeminent force in finance, entertainment, democracy and technology mean that the US should continue to top the ranking but the question among many is if there is a link between brand value and the impact on tourism.
GDP data forms a significant part of the calculation of nation brand value, while another reason is that the US, with its huge economy, dominates the global stage and has an impact on the size of the brand value. However, the final figures are calculated by combining the GDP data with more qualitative information drawn from four pillars – Goods and Services, Tourism, Talent and Investment - hence the link to tourism.
In my view, looking at nation brand strength in isolation can in some ways be seen as the truest reflection of a government’s guidance of its nation brand but the push we saw by US tourism in key markets will add to the total value. But the issue is why tourism is down by 2.3% when the total brand value is so strong.
The Anholt-Roper Nation Brands Index looks at a country’s image by examining six dimensions of national competence, all of which are treated equally with no weighting. This gives an overall sense of a country’s reputation.
Brand USA push
When Jim Evans, the CEO of Brand USA, said that he would drive a new revolution of the US globally with the Brand USA marketing campaign which was its first in 238 years, the world sure saw one of the top marketing campaigns in the global tourism industry. The financial muscle that came into the system for a brand that already was at the top of the mind sure woke the entire industry. The pillars of leadership that Brand USA focused on are as follows.
n Tourism: The US is the second-largest tourist arrival nation in the world while France is the best in terms of attracting tourists and Spain and China followed in third and fourth position respectively. Asia has been growing in terms of its tourist arrival numbers. The overall campaign was driven on a song written by Rosanne Cash, the daughter of famed singer Johnny Cash. The melody of her song ‘Land of Dreams’ perfectly captured the spirit of the campaign.
n Export - The US is known as a globally competitive supplier of many goods and services. Though GDP increases annually in the US, the rate of growth reduces year by year, threatening the down rating of the economy and brand equity. US exports crossed $ 2.5 trillion while service itself reached $ 900 billion.
nGovernance – Brand USA’s equity is largely affected by the continuous war initiated after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Expenditure of one trillion dollars has been spent during the post-9/11 period for Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries like Libya. In 2011, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (2001-2010) cost $ 321 billion. The cost of war as a percentage of GDP was 0.7% during the peak period and 4.9% as a percentage of total defence expenses, which created a dent in the brand, analysts say.
nCulture: The US consists of people who came from many different countries. They are European, African American, Indian, Alaskan and Pacific Islanders, making the US unique. Although there is a variety of customs, traditions and foods, they do share many of the same values and they care about individual freedoms, equal opportunities and the fair treatment of people regardless of differences in the private ownership of property. More than 70% of Americans are members of religious groups. The international popularity of American music is an example of the globalisation of the country’s culture. The united nature of all cultural groups uplifts the brand equity of the US. For decades, Hollywood has been a big part of Brand USA and US movies continue to break box office records around the world. Walt Disney is the US film icon who helped increase the brand value of the nation.
The Microsoft Corporation, the company founded by Bill Gates, is considered the world’s largest software maker in terms of revenue. It is also one of the world’s most valuable companies contributing to the brand value of the US.
n People: Human development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their wellbeing. Human development is about the real freedom of ordinary people to decide who to be, what to do and how to live. The Human Development Index is continuously growing in the US, which shows that the nation is very concerned about the people’s education, health and living standards.
Pick up for the world
Whilst a nation can be the most valued brand globally with strong nation brand building campaigns like those of Brand USA, we see that tourism will require different treatment given the reality the we see once again from the performance of US tourism even though it was a top of the mind brand globally in 2016.
(The writer is a multiple award-winning marketer and business leader. The thoughts expressed are his personal observations and not the views of any organisation he serves. He recently received the Global Business Leadership Award in Singapore)
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