Disney, Brand USA launch campaign to lure overseas visitors

Seeking to draw more international tourists, Walt Disney World is partnering with a national travel organization to be featured in its global marketing campaign.

Brand USA, a national public-private partnership that markets U.S. travel destinations abroad, is spotlighting Disney World in the most recent installment of its United Stories campaign.

United Stories, which started in 2019, highlights national landmarks and smaller destinations alike.

Christopher Thompson, Brand USA president and CEO, announced the campaign Monday at the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW conference in Orlando, premiering a commercial that would be used to advertise the resort overseas.

“We pride ourselves on telling the stories of America — I don’t think you can really tell the stories of America to the world without including stories about Disney,” Thomas Garzilli, Brand USA’s chief marketing officer, told the Orlando Sentinel.

It was not immediately clear how much Disney and Brand USA are spending on the campaign. Garzilli declined to reveal the amount and Disney representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brand USA is funded partly by contributions from destination marketing organizations, travel brands and private sector organizations, as well as through the federal taxes, according to its website.

Over half of its fiscal year 2022 budget of nearly $77 million is used for partner marketing services, according to Brand USA’s business plan.

International guests have been slow to return to Disney and Orlando’s other major theme parks since the U.S.’s major international COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted in November. These visitors tend to stay longer at theme parks and spend more during their vacations.

Global visitors typically made up between 18% and 22% of total visitation at Disney’s U.S. parks pre-pandemic, executives said, but visitation numbers have remained below that in recent months.

Without naming specific attendance figures, Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said in May that the number of foreign visitors to the company’s U.S. parks was gradually increasing from the holiday period, when concerns remained high over the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Disney initially approached Brand USA last summer about participating in United Stories to help advertise its 50th anniversary celebration, Thompson said, though the two have worked together on other projects in the past.

“The fact that Disney wanted to be part of this program and wanted to tell their stories … was really compelling,” he said.

Disney’s marketing will be translated into eight other languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese and Mandarin, to connect with the company’s top international markets, according to Brand USA.

Of the 11 United Stories destination marketing campaigns produced by Brand USA this year, Disney World is the only business and the only location that is not a city, state or region, according to Thompson. Other destinations advertised in 2022 include San Antonio, Texas; California and Nevada; and the Pacific Northwest.

The Disney commercial that premiered Monday features a grandfather writing a letter to his granddaughter in an “Adventure Book,” from the Disney-Pixar film “Up,” recounting memories of their trip together.

The ad ends by encouraging visitors to “turn today’s magic into tomorrow’s cherished memories at The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

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