Brand USA ignores medical travel

When President Biden signed the omnibus spending bill, it included the Restoring Brand USA Act, which allocated US$250 million in funding for Brand USA, the country’s tourism marketing arm.  The aim is reclaim its share of international travellers, but the country seems to have forgotten medical and health tourism. 

Brand USA says that the international visitor segment is the most lucrative part of travel and has also been the slowest to return to pre-pandemic levels.  The funding will allow Brand USA and partners to rebuild traveller confidence, stimulate demand and accelerate the return of international visitation and spend.

Brand USA will look to cooperative marketing with tour operators and has said it will work more with international social media influencers to show the readiness of destinations.

Among the destinations most hopeful for Brand USA’s success are U.S. cities, which suffered disproportionately from the lack of international visitors, just as they had always gained more from their spending.  Destination DC, with 1,000 local business members, is launching its Experience DC marketing campaign, featuring custom digital content, streaming video and audio.

Washington in 2019 had 24.6 million visitors.  While overseas visitors were only 7% of visitors, they represented 27% of the spending. The city expects about 20 million domestic visitors this year, although overseas visitation is not likely to reach 2019 levels until 2025.  Medical tourism is absent from the promotion.

New York has launched the “Get Local NYC” campaign, encouraging tourists to visit all five of the city’s boroughs. NYC & Company, the city’s marketing arm, expects tourism levels to increase 70% this year and return to 85% of 2019 levels by year’s end, including 8 million international visitors. New York had welcomed more than 13.5 million international tourists in 2019, a number that dropped to 2.4 million in 2020.  The latest NYC campaign offers 22 reasons to visit, however, medical and health tourism are visibly missing.