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First coordinated U.S. tourism campaign to launch in May

The $150-million marketing blitz to promote the U.S. to travelers worldwide is in response to a drop in the country's overall share of world travelers in the decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

April 23, 2012|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • A marketing blitz to promote the U.S. to travelers worldwide set to launch next month features singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash wailing an anthem called "Land of Dreams. Above, Cash performs this month during the 2012 Concert for the Rainforest Fund at Carnegie Hall in New York
A marketing blitz to promote the U.S. to travelers worldwide set to launch… (Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images )

Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash will wail an anthem called "Land of Dreams" while images of smiling Americans playing on the beach, running through fields of flowers and dancing in streets flash across the screen.

These are among the images and sounds behind the nation's first coordinated $150-million media campaign to promote the U.S. to travelers worldwide. Details of the campaign are set to be released today at International Pow Wow 2012, a travel trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The U.S. Travel Assn. initiated the campaign with the support of several large tourism groups and travel businesses. It was approved by Congress as part of the Travel Promotion Act of 2010. The campaign will be financed by a $14 fee charged to each international visitor who registers for a visa to enter the U.S., plus donations from private businesses such as hotels and theme parks.

The campaign is in response to a drop in the country's share of world travelers in the decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Many travel industry leaders blame the nation's tougher visa requirements and airport security measures for cutting overall visitor numbers and spending totals.

To draw foreign travelers back, the campaign will launch billboards, magazine ads, online videos and television commercials, emblazoned in colorful images of city scenes, forests and beaches and the message "Discover America."

The campaign is headed by a board of directors, appointed by the U.S. secretary of Commerce, that includes the heads of state tourism panels and hotel company executives, among others. New York-based JWT, one of the nation's largest advertising firms, was chosen to develop the campaign.

The marketing blitz will begin next month in Canada, Britain and Japan, followed later in Brazil, South Korea, India and Germany.

Although the campaign is designed to promote the country as a whole, private travel industry firms that donate a minimum of $1 million in cash and $4 million in in-kind contributions to the campaign get mentioned in the ads by name, with online links and phone numbers included.

So far,Marriott International Inc.,Walt Disney Co.and Best Western International Inc. have each contributed the minimum amount.

"Those that can't donate those dollars still benefit from the overall campaign," said Chris Perkins, chief marketing officer for the campaign. "By selling the whole nation, they all stand to benefit."

AirTran to continue charging fees

Southwest Airlines, which has pummeled its competitors with an advertising campaign boasting that "bags fly free," will continue to charge a checked bag fee at its subsidiary AirTran Airways at least until 2014.

Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said a full integration of Southwest and the airline it purchased in 2010 will not be completed for another two years.

Until then, he said, AirTran will continue to collect fees for checked bags and reservation changes, even though Southwest makes a point in television commercials and online ads of slamming its competitors for charging such fees.

"AirTran generates revenue its way; Southwest does business in a very different way," Kelly told Bloomberg News. "Customers understand it is a different brand with a different package. We have said all that will be converted over time. It's not an issue."

The revenue is significant. AirTran charges $20 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second. It also charges $75 to change or cancel reservations.

In the first nine months of last year, AirTran collected $128 million in baggage fees and $38.4 million in fees from reservation changes, federal data show.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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