Tracks You May Have Missed: Marketing to the International Traveler Online: The BRICs and Mortar

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

It’s not rocket science.

1024px-Surfaces_brick_wall_with_mortar_closeup_viewIn the balance

In the early 70s, the nation’s first convention and visitors bureau assembled a small delegation to Europe to promote the bold idea of inbound Visit USA tourism. America’s tourism balance of payments was far from balanced at that time. What a novel idea it was back then for New York City to suggest that, as Americans flocked to Europe for the Grand Tour, Europeans might actually find something worthwhile to see in the New World.


Ten years later, Florida and others joined the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring a tiny delegation of one dozen US destination trailblazers exhibiting at the first London World Travel Market. That same year, New York City and Pan American World Airways dipped a toe in the water to test Japan, a market which had not developed any US tour offerings beyond Guam, Hawaii, and a tiny taste of the West Coast for the more adventuresome.

Moving on (line)

Back then, we had to go there to get anywhere at all. We had to press the flesh with tour operators, airline sales reps, trade press. We needed to build group inclusive tours or forget it. In the 80s, USTTA in Tokyo used to advise DMOs that it was all about showing up over and over again, building relationships and trust, exchanging Christmas cards, attending JATA, and sitting down together at the tatami mat with chopsticks in hand.

Our approach has changed, too. Now you can create the relationship to prompt the buy directly with the consumer and you can do it online.

Who got the memo?

Fast forward a few decades, and the balance of payments now tilts the other way. The list of countries we’re wooing has changed according to Jiri Marousek of Brand USA. Canada and Mexico have matured; the memo has been widely distributed. Europe, quite frankly, already got the memo. Japan got the memo has called a time-out. BRIC nations are taking up the slack.

America is the world’s most visited country. Brand USA is focused on eliminating red tape to make us visa-free and easier for more international visitors to get here and spend here. How many? 100 million per year by 2021.




Be greedy

The eTourism Summit ’13 discussion by presenters Jiri Marousek of Brand USA, Laszlo Horvath of ActiveMedia, and Evan Saunders from Attract China suggested what else needs doing by DMOs. “Remember,” they said, “the whole of America is a bigger draw than its parts.” With a target of hosting 100 million international visitors by 2021, we all win some. How much we win against our fair share really is a question of how adroit we are as DMOs in reaching international travel shoppers via online resources as well as convincing foreign and domestic carriers to increase international air service to secondary airports.

 Blast off!

Evan Saunders of Attract China explains: China is a rocket, but not rocket science. With an estimated 1.5 million traveling annually from China to the USA, average length of stay is longer and spending is pegged at $6,000 per person/per trip.

Facebook not spoken here

How to reach the 59% that are independent travelers?  Well for once, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google are not the answer. In China, they’re inaccessible. However, 55% are on Weibo (China’s Twitter) and Baidu is the main search engine.

 “All Aboard!” on Union Pay

The best and the most simple way to: 1) send out a message that your destination is “Chinese friendly” and 2) capture Chinese visitor spend is to get on board with Union Pay.

 Union Pay is the preferred vehicle for monetary transactions. Saunders’ says:

–   Facilitate Union Pay

–   Promote Union Pay as your unique selling point

–   Display the logo on your Chinese landing page

–   Go to to review your website loading experience

 From Austria to Zimbabwe

What works for China works elsewhere when it comes to these universal recommendations from Horvath:

–   Have a local host and domain

–   Use human translators

–   Know where each country is in its buying cycle mindset

–   Know what the hot buttons are for each separate market and act on them

–   Replace ads with experiences

–   Supplement photos with stories

Storytelling is the new black. Do it (accurately) in the local language and add photos. 



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Filed under China Ready, Countries, eTourism Summit San Francisco, SEM

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