Vice president, Global Market Development, Brand USA, Jay Gray

Revealing the company’s promotional strategies and communicating the growing links between MENA and the US, vice president, Global Market Development, Brand USA, Jay Gray exclusively speaks to Naomi Leach.
TTG: How is the United States tourism product evolving to grow its status as a leisure hub and how does your destination and business in particular attract the leisure market?

Brand USA’s role is to broadly promote all of the diverse destinations and experiences of the United States. States like New York, Florida and California are some of the top destinations for leisure travellers from around the world. However, a big part of Brand USA’s initiative is to make the world aware of countless opportunities and diversity of destinations beyond the traditional gateway cities.

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In doing so, we introduce travellers to parts of the US that they may have never known existed. By making travellers aware of these ‘beyond the gateway’ experiences, we introduce entirely new leisure products and invite the world to discover the US like never before.

TTG: Which inbound markets are you targeting and are there niches that you are keen to grow?

Brand USA has a broad overall market approach. In general, we promote many of our more unique and off-the-beaten-path destinations to our mature markets, such as Canada, UK and Japan. These travellers may have visited the US frequently, seen many of our top destinations and are looking for new experiences.

In addition, we focus on promoting many of the top destinations to emerging markets such as India, China and the Middle East. Many of these travellers may be first time visitors to the US and this is a great time to showcase the traditional leisure destinations.

TTG: How are you capitalising on the strengthening links between the US and the Middle East? Why do you think this relationship is blossoming now?

The Middle East continues to be an important and growing market for the US with a 14 per cent increase last year alone. In the last seven years, the number of visitors from this region has almost doubled, with leisure travel outpacing business travel. These tend to be high-spend travels with shopping and fine dining as some of their top activities.

Brand USA, along with our domestic partners, recognise the high-growth, high-spend trend of this region and are partnering with many of the airlines, tour operators and travel agencies to capitalise on this growth.

And while leisure travellers from the Middle East represent a great opportunity for the US, the development of the region as an aviation hub is extremely important in terms of providing accessibility to other parts of the world. With more than 85 per cent of the world’s population within reach of a direct flight from the Gulf and projections that GCC airports will handle as many as 250 million passengers by 2020, Brand USA plans are to leverage these routes to promote and drive traffic to the US.

TTG: What’s new with Brand USA?

Brand USA is currently developing several cooperative marketing initiatives with airlines and tour operators throughout the region. This will include both direct to consumer activities as well as educational opportunities with the trade, including a variety of trade and media familiarisation trips.

Additionally, there will be a major Brand USA consumer marketing campaigns running on major television networks starting in the fall. This campaign will focus on many of the major outdoor attractions, such as national parks and scenic byways, and the ease of getting to these destinations through new airline routes.