Yesterday Brand USA announced the largest marketing deal in its short history, but its choice in partner will make some U.S. travel stakeholders wonder if they’re wasting time with the national marketing organization.
Brand USA teamed up with European travel company Thomas Cook in a multi-million dollar joint marketing agreement that will blast Brand USA ads across Thomas Cook’s online, in-store, in-flight, and direct marketing channels.
The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness of the diversity of U.S. destinations early in European travelers’ planning process. The marketing agreement will last three months starting in January 2014 and run simultaneously across the UK, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Brand USA’s choice in market investment is curious since the U.S.’s fastest growing outbound markets for high-spending visitors are in China and Brazil.
The growth in arrivals from European markets like the UK, France, and Germany is either nonexistent or minimal in comparison to double-digit growth from countries in Asia and South America, according to Brand USA’s 2014 Business Plan.
As a Brand USA spokesperson explains it: “It is important to Brand USA to be able to work with such an established and trusted tour operator as Thomas Cook. This partnership has been a long time in discussion and it is fantastic for Brand USA that this partnership is pan-European, covering a number of key markets for the USA’s tourism industry.”
Brand USA is not currently pursuing similar deals in Asia or South America.
The agreement is also unprecedented for the Thomas Cook Group, which recently created a Media & Partnerships division to introduce media and marketing programs to partners, suppliers, and third-party brands.
Thomas Cook spent the last two years grappling with massive staff cuts and retail store closures as it attempted to shed old assets and business practices under new Chief Executive Officer Harriet Green. It entered this year on an upbeat note after it ended two years of operating losses with a profit following its cuts and closures, which amounted to losing 55 of 85 holiday brands and a fifth of its UK stores.