Visitors to the United States of America have declined quite dramatically.
Even people in countries which ally themselves to the USA are finding other destinations more attractive. British visitors were 10% fewer compared to 2005,a surprising fact when one takes into account the value generated by an attractive rate of exchange.
One explanation is the problems of the new entry conditions and many of these could have been handled better. Another may be the real and growing unpopularity of the President.
Perhaps the overwhelming concern is the perceived unfriendliness of the American people.
On Sunday February 11th, a primetime BBC show “Top Gear” featured a journey by the show’s three idiosyncratic presenters, by road, from Miami to New Orleans. They behaved in the provocative way they always do, and were met by a great deal of aggression. Jeremy Clarkson ended the show by pointing out that the richest nation in the world had done very little to repair the damage done to New Orleans one year after Hurricane Katrina. To the Americans he said, " Shame on you", and advised British viewers not to go to the USA.
Over 4 million visits were made to the States in 2006 by the British and. this kind of publicity will make the task of the people responsible for tourism much harder.
Is it possible to brand a country?
Some countries have attempted to, and it is a very complex task. A country’s image is composed of its geography, history, economy, culture and position. Its brand identity involves foreign and domestic policy, business, trading patterns, religion, heritage as well as tourism.
It may not be possible to brand the USA in all its complexity, but it needs to address the problem posed by falling tourist numbers. My own experience in Boston suggests that most Americans are courteous and friendly. The perception of a lot of British people is, however, very different.
This perception needs to be addressed urgently.