Visit America! It’s just like Canada

The U.S. launches its first tourism campaign after the "lost decade" following the September 11th terror attacks

Yiping Yang By Yiping Yang

In a bid to attract foreign tourists to the Land of the Free, the United States launched a tourism ad campaign this week. But some Canadians believe the ad’s soft and gentle vision makes America resemble Canada.

Lacking iconic images of America like the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore, the ad instead stresses American diversity, depicting mountains, valleys, beaches, women in hijabs and a gay couple on a streetcar. Produced by Brand USA — a public-private partnership between the travel industry and the U.S. government — it features country music star Rosanne Cash singing a folksy song, “Lands of Dreams,” that includes musicians from around the world. The spectacle ends with the tagline: “Discover the land as never before.”

A scene from a new U.S. tourism campaign ad that includes a gay couple in a streetcar. (YouTube)

To York University Business Professor Ashiwn Joshi, the ad plays down traditional stereotypes of the U.S. — like the idealism of the Statue of Liberty — and instead emphasizes the North American traits of inclusiveness and friendliness that, while present in America, are more often linked to Canada.

“People don’t necessarily associate warm and fuzzy feelings with America,” says Joshi. “They associate magnificent accomplishments with America, but this was about people and relationships and that’s what made it look Canadian to us. It celebrates Canadian traits for sure.”

Brand USA’s campaign is the first American push for foreign tourists after the so-called “lost decade” that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks, which gave rise to complicated visa procedures for international travelers, driving them to Europe and other destinations.

The $200 million campaigns include $20 billion to entice Canadians to visit the U.S. That’s prompted fears from Canadian tourist officials, whose budgets have been facing cuts, that the U.S. might steal some of Canada’s tourism business.

But Joshi didn’t think the television ad would pull many of his compatriots across the border. “We go to visit places because they are different from where we live,” he says.

Check out the video and decide for yourself if it makes the U.S. look like Canada: