In the wake of the U.S. Department of Commerce's data that international tourism to the country has declined, yet on the heels of hope from the U.S. Travel Association that travel will pick up in 2010, the United States earned the coveted spot as the world's top country brand for the first time in the fifth annual Country Brand Index (CBI), rising from the third spot in 2008.
Canada, host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, held on to the second ranking as Australia slipped from the premier ranking to number three. Other countries making the top 10 of the global 2009 CBI study include New Zealand, France, and Italy. CBI is a comprehensive study of approximately 3,000 international business and leisure travelers from nine countries. It examines how countries are branded and ranked, and identifies emerging global trends in the world's fastest growing economic sector - travel and tourism, which accounted for $944 billion in international tourism receipts in 2008.
The 1009 CBI Top Country Brands
1. United States
4. New Zealand
8. United Kingdom
This year's index, conducted by FutureBrand, a leading global brand consultancy, in conjunction with public relations firm Weber Shandwick's Global Travel & Lifestyle Practice, includes rankings and trends, themes in nation building and marketing issues, as well as more in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Top 10 country brands. Additionally, research was expanded to cover 102 country brands, which allowed a breakdown of regional rankings to be included. Other new topics include: the political and economic sides of country branding; discrepancies between perception and reality of a country brand; and "A New Focus on Value," which speaks to one of the chief motivators in travel and tourism this year.
This year's CBI also touches on a variety of topics relevant to travelers and tourism professionals including: how small nations can compete with much larger countries; the different ways destinations can communicate value; and the year's best and worst country brand marketing. Other notable topics focus on the use of social media in country branding and how icons, national companies and sports drive the development of country brand image.
Sub Categories for Best Country Brand
Most Ideal for Business: United States, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Canada
Best for Extended Business Trip: Australia, Japan, Italy, United States, New Zealand
Best Art and Culture: Italy, France, India, Japan, Greece
Best Authenticity: Japan, India, Peru, Cambodia, Bhutan
Best Beach: Tahiti, Bermuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas
Best for Families: Canada, Australia, United States, New Zealand, Portugal
Best History: Egypt, India, Peru, Israel, Italy
Best Resort and Lodging: Canada, Tahiti, Bahamas, United States, Mexico
Best Natural Beauty: Tahiti, Costa Rica, Canada, New Zealand, Fiji
Best Nightlife: Japan, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Thailand
Best Fine Dining: France, Italy, Japan, Argentina, Singapore
Best Outdoor Activities & Sports: Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada, Aruba
Best Rest and Relaxation: Tahiti, Barbados, Aruba, Fiji, Bahamas
Best Safety: Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Bermuda
Best Shopping: Singapore, United States, Japan, UAE, United Kingdom
Best Value for Money: India, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Bulgaria
You Would Most Like to Live In: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, United States
Best Ease of Travel: Germany, Ireland, Canada, Singapore, Bermuda
Best Standard of Living: Germany, Canada, Japan, Finland, Singapore
Best Political Freedom: Canada, Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand
Best Advanced Technology: Japan, Germany, United States, Singapore, United Kingdom
Best Quality Products: Japan, United States, Germany, Finland, Switzerland
Best Environmentalism: Finland, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Iceland
Best Friendly Locals: Fiji, Ireland, Aruba, Thailand, Bermuda
Easiest to Do Business In: Singapore, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany
Best Conferences: Japan, Germany, Singapore, United States, United Kingdom
Best New Country for Business: Japan, United States, United Kingdom, India, Singapore
Best Desire to Visit Again: Australia, New Zealand, Maldives, Tahiti, United States
CBI also identified the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, and Vietnam, respectively, as the top three "rising stars" - those likely to become major tourist destinations in the next five years. Also making the list this year are Croatia, South Africa, and India.
FutureBrand has developed a three-tiered system for examining and ranking country brands. The Country Brand Index incorporates global quantitative research, expert opinions, and relevant secondary sources for statistics that link brand equity to assets, growth and expansion. The result is a unique evaluation system that provides the basis of our rankings and insights about the complexities and dynamics of country brands. The 2009 survey tracks the perceptions of approximately 3,000 international business and leisure travelers from nine countries--the US, the UK, China, Australia, Japan, Brazil, UAE, Germany and Russia. Participants were screened to include frequent international travelers (who travel internationally more than once a year) between the ages of 21 and 65, with a balanced split between men and women. Respondent perceptions of 102 country brands were quantified through questions about behavior around destination selection; country associations across an array of 29 image attributes; and overall awareness, familiarity, past visits, intent to visit, and willingness to recommend destinations to others. Survey results were aggregated and weighted in proportion to regional volume of travel consumption. This was done in order to minimize potential bias around preferred locations from respondents from regions that may have been over-represented in the sample. Our 2009 expert panel consists of 47 travel, tourism and hospitality professionals who are not associated with one specific destination.