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US tourism emerges from ‚Äúlost decade”

After almost 10 years of neglect, the US tourism industry is showing signs of significant growth as the efforts of national marketing agency Brand USA begin to deliver results.

Established by the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, Brand USA is now in its third year of operation.

Over the past year, it has expanded its presence to 10 markets, including Australia, which generate 75% of inbound travel to the US. It also has representation in an additional 10 markets, with “some sort of activity” in 10 more.

Chief executive Christopher Thompson said the organisation now covers around 90% of inbound travel overall.

“I think our footprint has expanded to a pretty significant level now," he told delegates and media at US tradeshow IPW in Chicago.

He referred to a recent report conducted by Oxford Economics across eight key markets which found that Brand USA had generated 1.1 million incremental visitors in 2013, $3.4 billion in visitor spending, 53,181 jobs and $47 in economic impact for every $1 spent.

US-based travel expert and TV personality Peter Greenberg called the turnaround “nothing short of impressive” coming after what he described as "the lost decade" – a close to 10 year period in which the US cast tourism from its agenda.

Although there remains no cabinet level travel and tourism minister, Brand USA has strepped in to, effectively, fill the void, he added.

"But it's not just about promoting the USA, it's about credibility," Greenberg said. 

Meanwhile, Thompson signalled more activity is on the cards as he introuced National Geographic digital nomad Andrew Evans who will travel along iconic Route 66 when IPW ends later this week. The journey will shine a new light on the cross-country route, while also highlighting the "great American road trip", according to Thompson.

He also revealed plans for an IMAX movie to showcase the country's national parks to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service in 2016, under the direction of MacGillvray Freeman.

“We’ve been busy but there’s a lot more to come,” he said.

The US is targeting 100 million annual visitors by 2021.

“It’s a lofty goal but one we know we can accomplish by concentrating our marketing efforts in the right combination of emerging and established markets and by working with our partners,” a Brand USA statement said.

Meanwhile, Australia strategy director Joe Ponte revealed Australia finished 2013 in 10th place for international visitation, climbing 7% on the previous year to 1.21 million – 1.7% of overall visitors. In terms of expenditure, the market performed even better coming in at eight place as spend rose 12% to $6.1 billion.

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