Tuesday,  July 16, 2019  2:40 pm

IPW 2019: Brand USA hails diverse America, despite current political climate


IPW 2019: Brand USA hails diverse America, despite current political climate
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Despite a polarizing Trump administration, Brand USA, the organization at the helm of marketing the United States to global travellers worldwide, is standing firm in its belief that the U.S. is a destination that embraces diversity and multiculturalism.

As showcased in Anaheim on Monday (June 3) at IPW –  the U.S. Travel Association’s leading international travel trade show – Brand USA has spent the past year spearheading a variety of marketing campaigns designed to highlight the cultures, experiences, destinations and stories travellers may find in America.

This includes it’s latest “mobile content studio” campaign, called United Stories, an influencer-led, cross-country road trip in uniquely-painted vehicles equipped with cameras that allows viewers to follow along.  

“We’re a nation of many, incredible stories,” Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, told reporters at IPW 2019 in Anaheim, California.

The goal is to not only highlight the people, places and experiences that tell the story of USA, but to curate locally-sourced content that inspires emotions, wanderlust and, ultimately, future travel to the U.S.

“Our storytelling is shifting to content told from the perspective of locals. Once you know what locals know, you know the heartbeat of a community,” Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA (IPW premier sponsor) told reporters Monday at a Brand USA-led press conference at Anaheim Convention Centre, IPW's homebase for the week. 

“We’re a nation of many, incredible stories,” Thompson said.  

One of those amazing stories belongs to Mr. Harry Sidhu, the mayor of Anaheim - IPW 2019's official host city - who is Anaheim's first mayor of Indian heritage.

Still, the promise of multiculturalism and diversity is a stark contrast to the divisive, isolating policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

Just last week, the U.S. State Department unveiled a new policy requiring most applicants for U.S. visas to list their social media identifiers – like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts – previous email addresses and phone numbers, a notable tightening of immigrant and visitor screening under the Trump administration.

Last January also marked the two-year anniversary of President Trump's controversial travel ban. 

Has promoting USA to the rest of the world become increasingly difficult in Trump’s America?

“We understand,” Thompson told reporters, stressing the importance and priorities of border security in the United States.

To that end, Thompson reinforced that the predictions people have had over the years in regards to Trump’s impact on American tourism (that tourism would tank on account of Trump’s presidency) haven’t come to pass.

“Since we have had the new [Trump] administration, we have not seen the drop in travel like everybody predicated,” said Thompson. “The message there [is that] travel has the ability to transcend politics.”

It’s a telling message as Brand USA, today, announced a third film for release in collaboration with MacGillivray Freeman Films—"Into America's Wild” (a working title).

MEDIA MARKETPLACE. IPW connects exhibitors with thousands of travel buyers and media from more than 70 countries.

The film will take viewers on a “cross-country journey to scenic byways, ancient homelands, little gems, and hidden trails that form the natural tapestry of America,” Thompson said, and will capture the spirit of Brand USA’s previous two films National Parks Adventure and America's Musical Journey.

“When you focus on what travel is all about, it’s about destinations, experiences and people. And none of that’s changed,” said Thompson. “Every bit of that is as powerful as it’s ever been.”

According to a recent study led by Oxford Economics, Brand USA’s marketing efforts has generated nearly $48 billion dollars in total economic impact since 2013, resulting in nearly 52,000 incremental jobs each year.

Brand USA’s expansion in Canada

This year saw Brand USA hire a new full-time employee in Canada – Mr. Colin Skeritt, who’ll serve as the organization’s regional director in Canada.

Colin Skeritt is Brand USA's new regional director for Canada. PAX FILE PHOTO.

As some industry insiders can attest, Skerritt has more than 15 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry in Canada, notably serving as director of tourism in Canada for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) from 2016 to 2018.

“We’re really excited for what Colin is going to do with us,” Thompson told reporters at IPW.

Skerritt is expected to bring Brand USA’s resources to Canada in full force as he develops marketing strategies in the Canadian market related to travel trade outreach, consumer marketing, consumer public relations, and partner marketing.

Part of this strategy will include a plan to expand Brand USA’s team in Canada, a long-term strategy that will be implemented over this year and next, PAX has learned.

It’s a slight shake-up in terms of how business is currently done in Canada.

“We were following a traditional rep model before,” Thompson told PAX in an off-the-cuff interview outside of IPW’s media marketplace. “Now, this allows us to take advantage of everything we’re already doing in Canada, but do it with an individual that can work with all our destinations and brand reps across all the channels we’re active in, both with the travel trade, partners, and direct to consumers.”

As far as international visitors are concerned, Canada is the United States’ number one market.

According to recent data obtained from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office, 21.2 million Canadians visited the United States in 2018.

Now in its 51st year, IPW connects travel exhibitors with thousands of travel buyers and media from more than 70 countries to promote products and negotiate future business and build relationships.

This year marks the second time Anaheim has hosted the mega event since first hosting IPW in 2007.

IPW runs until June 5th.

Stay tuned as PAX brings you more on location coverage from IPW 2019 in Anaheim!

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