U.S. makes pitch for tourists

New Orleans’ famous French Quarter is among the featured sites in a new U.S. marketing campaign aimed at boosting the number of foreign visitors. The effort initially will be directed at Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom.

NEW YORK — How do you sell Times Square and the Grand Canyon? The Carolinas and California?

Residents of Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom are getting a taste starting this week of the United States’ first-ever marketing campaign aimed at boosting tourism.

The print, Web and video ads released Tuesday were created by Brand USA, a partnership of government agencies and private companies. The consortium was developed to act like the tourism ministries of countries such as Ireland, Italy or Israel.

It’s the first time that the U.S. has marketed itself as a tourist destination to people living in other countries.

While tourism has increased globally over the last decade, the U.S. slice of those travelers has fallen, due in large part to complicated visa procedures and heightened security that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

The U.S. had a 17 percent slice of the global tourism spending in 2000, but that has fallen to just over 11 percent today.

The 10 years after the attacks are often referred to as the “lost decade” for U.S. tourism, because new procedures drove millions of international travelers to other countries.

Many European countries have reaped the benefit of the U.S. tightened restrictions. More Chinese tourists, for example, now go to France each year than to the U.S.

The average overseas visitor to the United States spends $4,000 per trip, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Japan, Canada and the U.K. were chosen as the first round of targets because the top-spending tourists in the U.S. come from those countries, which also have relatively light U.S. travel restrictions. Canadians, the top international spenders within American borders, spent $24 billion last year.

A few weeks from now the ads will spread to Brazil and South Korea. A handful of other markets will follow. Brand USA plans to spend about $12.3 million on advertising in the next three months.

“Dollars are tight today and we want to be very thoughtful about where and when we spend them,” said Stephen Cloobeck, the chairman of Brand USA and CEO of Diamond Resorts International. “But we’re doing all this with a smile and a sign that says `Welcome to the United States.’?”