“There was a perception that America didn’t want their business,” Freeman said, noting that heightened security and stricter visa laws created a “Fortress America” image that deterred many potential tourists.
Other countries have flung open their doors. From Southeast Asia to South America to Eastern Europe, countries have pumped up their tourism marketing budgets. Some, including Australia and Mexico, are spending more than $100 million a year promoting themselves, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Brand USA is quickly expanding its marketing campaign. It began last year with advertising blitzes in Britain, Canada and Japan. In the coming months, it will restart ads in those countries and add Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, Germany, Australia and China.
“Those nine markets represent 75 percent of all inbound travel to the United States,” said Anne Madison, a Brand USA spokeswoman. “We want to fish where the fish are biting.”
She said that Brand USA has offices in nine countries to pitch U.S. travel to tour operators and the travel press, and it is about to open six more, including ones in China and India.
The marketing campaign features TV ads with a tune called “Land of Dreams,” written and performed by singer Rosanne Cash, and inviting scenes of American life — picnics, beaches, weddings, ballroom dancing. There also are ads in the Tokyo subway, billboards in Vancouver and even a banner near London Bridge.
On Twitter, Brand USA staffers tweet about everything from Zion National Park in Utah to “the gentle rumbles of the Old South at the Mississippi Delta.” Brand USA also is about to launch a partnership with ESPN to deliver advertising and promotional programming to TV viewers and Web users in the United Kingdom.
Brand USA, launched in 2011, is funded through a $14 fee on tourists from the 37 countries whose citizens don’t require a visa to visit the United States. Of that fee, $10 underwrites Brand USA, and the other $4 goes to the Department of Homeland Security to cover costs of processing the fees.
Brand USA is allowed to use up to $100 million a year, provided it obtains matching contributions from its private partners in the travel and tourism industry. The partners give cash or provide “in-kind” services such as advertising that mentions Brand USA’s activities.
Officials said Brand USA has raised more than $60 million in cash and in-kind contributions from 260 private partners, including more than $1 million each from at least 17 organizations, including Hilton, Disney, Marriott and Expedia.