For the last few years, Brand USA has made growing tourism from Canada and Mexico one of its major priorities as it attempts to drive enough international visitation to meet its stated goal of 100 million visitors in 2021.
While Mexican tourism continues to increase, Canadian tourism growth has slowed considerably due to the weakness of Canadian currency against the U.S. dollar.
So the organization’s pivot towards Asia will be crucial if benchmarks for U.S. tourism are going to be met, according to executives at Brand USA’s latest board meeting on Wednesday.
“There is no question China will become our top overseas market,” said Carroll Rheem, Brand USA’s vice president of research and analytics. “The question is basically just when that will happen… When we look at the breakdown of annual growth, most of the growth is coming from Mexico. From this perspective Mexico will have the lion’s share, and next will be China.”
A look at the organization’s growth projections shows that China, India, and Taiwan are expected to see the greatest tourism growth rates through 2021.
Even with the growth, however, Chinese tourism will only represent about one-fifth the number of tourists as Canada or Mexico in 2021.
The organization’s recent push for partnerships in Asia bears out this strategy. This year, Brand USA partnered with China to run a series of U.S.-China Tourism Year events and educational resources, aimed at making easier for potential Chinese travelers to get a visa and enter the U.S.
Next year, Brand USA will partner with India for a 2017 U.S.‐India Tourism Partnership Year to ease barriers to increased Indian tourism to the U.S.
“India, within five years, will be the youngest country in the world by age population,” said Anne Madison, Brand USA’s chief strategy and communications officer. “It’s a big advantage for us to market to those travelers… you’re seeing a huge growth in the [free and independent traveler] and [meetings and incentives] sectors. These travelers are just so excited.”
For what it’s worth, Brand USA expects tourism arrivals to be especially stagnant from the UK, Venezuela, Brazil, and Germany through 2021, according to a chart from the board meeting.
“We’re starting to see a very different trend line than we have in the past,” said Rheem. “Historically, Canada has been by far the largest international market for arrivals and we’re finding due to currency… we’re seeing Canada drop off significantly after the last year. In contrast, Mexico has been quite resilient.”