The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Mark Schwab, CEO, Star Alliance

Mark Schwab, CEO, Star Alliance

In late February, some 100 public and private stakeholders from the tourism industry gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe to share best practice branding and marketing strategies.

Under the banner “Solutions for 2020 and Beyond: A Spotlight Series on U.S.–Japan Cutting Edge Collaboration—Strategies and Tools in Tourism Branding,” experts delivered keynote addresses and participated in panel discussions.

Yuri Furusawa, Japan Tourism Agency

Yuri Furusawa, Japan Tourism Agency

The events were part of the ongoing Spotlight Series, focusing on sectors of the economy offering compelling opportunities for bilateral business cooperation. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) partnered with the embassy and other stakeholders to help host the occasion by recruiting speakers and participants.

Mark Schwab, CEO of Star Alliance and a board member of Brand USA, delivered the first keynote address, titled “U.S. Tourism Branding Strategy: The Creation and Success of Brand USA.” The presentation was just one of a series of talks replete with expert advice and direct accounts from industry and academia.

Schwab began by outlining the events that led to the creation of Brand USA, a public–private partnership set up in 2010 “to increase international visitation, spend, and market share” for the United States. The agency set a goal in 2014 to raise visitor numbers to 100 million (from the current 74 million) by 2022.

He noted a “lost decade” between 2000 and 2010, when the number of visitors from Japan to the United States dropped dramatically. The time coincided with a 37 percent global loss of market share for international visitors.

To achieve its aims, Brand USA works closely with government bodies and some 500 corporate partners. A key role of the organization is explaining to Washington the value of travel and the contribution tourism makes to the economy—about 8 million jobs and $1.6 trillion annually, or 2.7 percent of national GDP.

Run as a business, Brand USA has a robust marketing strategy globally targeting nearly 40 markets—14 of which, including Japan, host direct consumer-focused campaigns. Trade-related initiatives are used in the other markets.

Schwab then discussed Brand USA’s creative marketing strategy, particularly honing in on US national parks.

With video marketing having become an important element of the organization’s strategy, a short movie has already been launched this year to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial. Four million people in 18 countries are expected to see this campaign over an 18-month period.

Turning to Japan, Schwab said that, in terms of in-bound tourism to the United States, the country ranks fourth. The 2015 goal was to have 3.7 million visitors annually from Japan. Here, Brand USA’s marketing focuses on young urban adults, particularly professional women, who tend to be open to new experiences and destinations.

Brand USA’s multi-dimensional plan includes participating in trade shows and industry events, utilizing a strong online presence, and engaging corporate partners such as hotels, airlines, as well as digital and print media.

In closing, Schwab said the United States’s worldwide market share had improved from 12 percent to 13.3 percent since Brand USA was created.

The key takeaway was the incremental increase, by 2 million visitors, over the past two years, representing $6.5 billion in incremental spend, or 15,000 incremental jobs a year.

Schwab’s presentation preceded a second keynote address by Vice Commissioner Yuri Furusawa of the Japan Tourism Agency. Next, regional tourism branding was discussed by representatives from related agencies in Okinawa and New York.

Finally, a panel including ACCJ member companies Adobe Systems Co., Ltd. and Marriott International, Inc. offered industry insights and solutions.

The next Spotlight Series, scheduled for May 17, will focus on cybersecurity. It is being held as part of the Cybersecurity Trade Mission, with a keynote address by Admiral Dennis Blair, former director of US National Intelligence. ACCJ members are welcome
to submit ideas for speakers.

John Amari is a writer and editor from the UK who specialises in articles on startups, entrepreneurs, science and tech and business.