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These Brand USA campaigns will be under great scrutiny from budget hawks in Congress, who would love to eliminate the countrywide promotional arm for U.S. tourism. The map/trip-planning idea sounds promising, but it all depends on its execution.
As part of a three-phase Discover America campaign, which is slated to soft launch in November, Google will be working with Brand USA on an interactive Discover America map geared toward geo-referencing content to show accessible activities for international visitors. Google’s Zagat unit will contribute content, as well.
It’s not enough to show that there are off-the-beaten track activities outside New York and in Colorado, for example, and the mapping “will show where they are and how they related to one another,” says Jiri Marousek, director of digital for Brand USA.
The idea is to enable visitors to begin trip planning in an interactive way without feeling like they are doing a lot of heavy lifting, Marousek says, adding that the mapping will provide context and won’t be a mere listing like Google Places.
“It is reducing friction in the planning process,” Marousek says.
As part of the Road Trips phase of the campaign, Brand USA has partnered with Google, Enterprise Rent a Car and Spotify (for road trip play lists), and is inviting destinations and private organizations to contribute itineraries, photos, videos and “storytelling” for the Discover America map, which will be live throughout the three-phase campaign.
The destinations and activities that get the highest traveler ratings will get featured with special stories and content, which will be overlayed over the map, officials said.
“This will be a living, breathing thing that will get more powerful as we move on,” Talia Salem, who heads social media for Brand USA, said during a webinar today about Brand USA’s digital and social media plans.
The Road Trips part of the campaign is slated to run November to March. It will be followed by a Great Outdoors campaign (March to June), and then a Travel Like A Local blitz (June to September).
There will social components to every facet of the campaign.
Salem said Brand USA is currently testing the Travel Like A Local campaign in target international markets as the campaign will likely vary country to country.
Brand USA’s goal is to increase the number of international visitors to the U.S., and to increase their spending once they arrive.
Says Salem: “It’s a very competitive marketplace.”