12 November 2008
Country Brand Index 2008
Country Brand Index 2008
Report author: Rina Plapler

This global study by FutureBrand indicates the importance of brand differentiation in the "current state of the world". With shifting markets and interests, as a result of economic and environmental changes, travel trends clearly illustrate that this sector is expanding in unprecedented ways.

Australia earns the coveted spot as the world's top country brand for the third consecutive year, according to the 2008 Country Brand Index (CBI) which was be officially released Tuesday, 11 November 2008 at London's World Travel Market, the premier annual exhibition of the global travel trade.

Rising from its sixth place ranking last year, Canada is recognised second and the United States rounds out the top three country brands in the 2008 study. Other countries making the top 10 include Italy, Switzerland and France.

The CBI examines how countries are branded and ranked according to key criteria, and identifies emerging global trends in the world's fastest growing economic sector - travel and tourism, which accounts for US $5.9 trillion of economic activity worldwide this year and more than 238 million jobs.

2008 CBI Top Country Brands
United States
New Zealand
United Kingdom

CBI, now in its fourth year, is a comprehensive study of approximately 2700 international business and leisure travelers from nine countries conducted by FutureBrand, a leading global brand consultancy, in conjunction with public relations firm Weber Shandwick's Global Travel & Lifestyle Practice. This year's index includes rankings and trends as well as travel motivations, challenges and opportunities within the worlds of travel, tourism and country branding (visit www.countrybrandindex.com for complete results).

Rising Stars
The CBI also identified China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Croatia, 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 Vietnam, India and Cuba. In addition, this year's CBI includes an in-depth report of how China fares post- Beijing Olympics.

"In this our fourth year, it is exciting to see many countries embracing the idea of brand. However, we still feel this is a largely underdeveloped category with most countries continuing to promote and market themselves in ways that are not differentiated. Particularly in the coming years, country brands must improve both their strategic orientation as well as their delivery," said Rina Plapler, senior executive director, FutureBrand.

This year's CBI touches on a variety of topics relevant to travelers and tourism professionals including: intergenerational travel (represented by countries such as the U.S., Canada and Japan), medical tourism, mainstream luxury (represented by countries like Japan and Spain), 'stay'cations and a rise in the off-the-beaten-track trips. Other notable trends this year focus on niche travel opportunities and the changing destination landscape.

"With the current state of the world - economic turmoil, political unrest and global warming - it's always fascinating to see which countries come out on top in branding themselves, generating global recognition and fueling the travel and tourism industry," said René A. Mack, president, Weber Shandwick's Travel & Lifestyle Global Practice.

The 2008 Country Brand Index reports a number of emerging trends in travel and tourism that include:
  • Changing Landscape - Within the industry, there has been a significant shift in the countries that are experiencing real tourism growth. Traditional tourism "hotspots" are being overshadowed by rising star destinations. In terms of regional performance, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East are experiencing higher growth rates than the average world demand. Chief among the changing landscape, citizens are becoming more outspoken about the brands their countries are aligning with to propel tourism, from branding efforts to logos to key messaging. The desire of many travelers to seek authentic vacation experiences has led to a rise in poverty travel - visiting poverty-stricken and/or polluted places and communities that showcase a reality otherwise unseen on an upscale or exotic expedition.
  • Specialised Travel on the Rise - Rapid growth in formerly niche travel and tourism markets continues to be a trend within the industry, including:
    • Rise of Women - Women are traveling more frequently without men, and women-only tours and retreats are becoming increasingly popular. Women comprise over half of adventure travelers worldwide.
    • Grandchild on Board - Affluent retirees in the U.S., Canada and Japan are traveling more and more. Half of vacationing baby boomers are now traveling with their grandchildren, indicating a new segment of multi-generational travel.
    • Finite Travel - There is a rise in people visiting places and/or species that are seen as endangered or in some form of time-related environmental risk. From polar bear and harp seal excursions to rain forest expeditions, many travelers are making it a priority to visit these places before they are irrevocably altered.
    • Spontaneous Travel - The biological imperative to escape will never go away, however, high pressured lifestyles and advances in online travel have resulted in consumers taking shorter trips each year, often booked last minute.
    • Religious Tourism - The concept of religious sites and pilgrimages is again becoming increasingly popular among travelers. For instance, the Vatican launched the world's first airline for Catholic pilgrims. Specialised religious tours are catering to orthodox believers.
  • Luxury Flying Upgrades - Responding to need, many airlines have developed greater flight options and service classes to cater to the lucrative luxury travel market. These include First and Business Class only airport terminals, as well as new and improved upper class sections in airplanes introduced by leading carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates Airlines. Additionally, there are a variety of new alternatives to conventional air travel that provide greater flexibility to the luxury traveler. Chief among them is the increased availability of regional jets and air taxis. Airports are upgrading at a faster rate, with technological advances such as Radio Frequency Identity (RFID), smart ID cards and self-check-in playing a greater role in the airport experience. The check-in process is also continuing to evolve, as airlines like Air Canada continue to develop bar code technology to allow passengers to board solely with their cell phones (without a printed e-ticket).

Study Methodology
FutureBrand has developed a three-tiered evaluation system for ranking country brands. This Index incorporates global quantitative research, expert opinions, and references relevant statistics that link brand equity to assets, growth and expansion. The result is a unique evaluation system that provides the basis of our rankings.

Almost 2,700 respondents from nine countries including the US, UK, China, Australia, Japan, Brazil, UAE, Germany and Russia participated in a travel survey. 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. Business and leisure travelers were both included. Respondents answered questions about behavior around destination selection; country associations with particular 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 their regions' respective volume of travel consumption. This was done in order to minimise potential bias around preferred locations from respondents from regions that may have been over-represented in the sample. Performance on attributes by country was then considered against expert opinions and secondary statistics in order to generate the country rankings.

About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in over 79 markets around the world. The firm's reputation is built on its deep commitment to client service, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates - engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across world-class practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, corporate/financial and crisis management. Its specialised services include digital/social media, advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. Weber Shandwick received the highest client-satisfaction honors in the 2007 Agency Excellence Survey by PRWeek U.S. and in 2008, was named Large PR Firm of the Year (PR News U.S.), European Consultancy of the Year (The Holmes Report) and Network of the Year (Asia Pacific PR Awards). The firm also won the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations for the past three years. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit www.webershandwick.com.

About FutureBrand
FutureBrand part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG), is a leading brand consultancy within IPG that commands a global presence spanning 20 offices in 16 countries. Partnering with the world's leading companies, FutureBrand helps its clients to develop profitable brands both today and into the future. Offering a full range of services from consumer branding and corporate identity, to brand identity, packaging design and beyond, FutureBrand works with clients to measure and increase brand value, define breakthrough brand strategies and create powerful brand experiences. Clients include ArcelorMittal, P&G, Microsoft, Nakheel, Intel, Barclays Premier, Nokia, Nestlé, MasterCard, UPS, and Unilever. For more information visit www.futurebrand.com.

This article originally appeared as a press release on www.countrybrandindex.com.