Less than six months found a dramatic improvement in America’s image abroad, the United States has earned the top spot as the world’s top country brand for the first time in the fifth annual Country Brand Index, rising from the third spot in 2008. Canada, host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, held on to the second ranking as perennial favorite 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, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.. 


CBI is a comprehensive study of approximately 3,000 international business and leisure travelers from nine countries, conducted by global brand consultancy FutureBrand and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. 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.


“This is the fifth year we have been able to continue to innovate around country brand thinking, methodology and findings,” says Rina Plapler, senior executive director, FutureBrand. “This category remains one with tremendous potential not only for tourism but investment, trade and policy.  Even with the global economic circumstances facing many nations, the need to maximize opportunity and present a cohesive identity is critical.”


René Mack, president of Weber Shandwick’s travel and lifestyle practice, says “it’s logical to assume that the shift in the political climate and renewed optimism surrounding the election of President Obama was a key influencer in the U.S. topping the list. It will be very interesting to see the U.S.’s performance next year and understand if this was a halo effect of a new president, or if the country can actually capitalize on this opportunity to better create a strong brand.”


The 2009 Country Brand Index also reports a number of emerging trends in travel and tourism that include:

·         The global economic downturn has led consumers to think about travel from a financial standpoint and make decisions accordingly.  The concept of value, as defined by more for less, continues to flourish in this environment.

·         With the plethora of last-minute travel bargains and new internet tools allowing for instant bargain bookings, there is a growing divide between those favoring impromptu trips and others prone to careful organization and advanced planning to account for more meaningful and structured travel experiences. The study also finds that even in the downturn, must-do travel—whether attending a milestone event like a wedding or taking an event-driven trip like attending the Super Bowl to support a local team—still persists.

·         The importance of authenticity is well-known: but the differing attitudes toward and different definitions of the idea mean that there is some discrepancy on why some destinations are thriving and other travel experiences are reinventing the concept.


CBI also identified the United Arab Emirates, 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.