United States Claims #1 Spot For First Time as World's Top Country Brand

    - Canada Holds on to Second Spot and Australia Slips to Number Three -

    - Global Study Expanded to Cover Regional Rankings Including Asia Pacific,
    Sub-Sahara Africa and the Americas -

<p><location>LONDON</location>, <chron>Nov. 6</chron> /CNW/ -- The <location>United States</location> 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.  <location>Canada</location>, host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, held on to the second ranking as <location>Australia</location>, always a perennial favorite, slipped from the premier ranking to number three.  Other countries making the top 10 of the global 2009 CBI study include <location>New Zealand</location>, <location>France</location>, and <location>Italy</location>.  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 US$944 billion in international tourism receipts in 2008.</p>
<p> </p>
<p> </p>
<p>                          2009 CBI Top Country Brands</p>
<p> </p>
                           1.  United States        6.  Italy
                           --  -------------        --  -----
                           2.  Canada               7.  Japan
                           --  ------               --  -----
                           3.  Australia            8.  United Kingdom
                           --  ---------            --  --------------
                           4.  New Zealand          9.  Germany
                           --  -----------          --  -------
                           5.  France              10.  Spain
                           --  ------              ---  -----

<p>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 and a look at the "Next 10," those top country brands ranking 11-20.  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 (visit <a href="http://www.futurebrand.com/cbi">http://www.futurebrand.com/cbi</a> for complete results).</p>
<p>"This is the fifth year we have been able to continue to innovate around country brand thinking, methodology and findings.  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," said Rina Plapler, senior executive director, FutureBrand.</p>
<p>"It is interesting to note that America has risen to the number one country brand this year.  It's logical to assume that the shift in the political climate and renewed optimism surrounding the election of <person>President Obama</person> was a key influencer in the U.S. topping the list," said Rene A. Mack, president, Weber Shandwick's Travel & Lifestyle Global Practice.  "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."</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>The following are highlights from this year's Country Brand Index, listing the top five countries in rank order for each category:</p>
<p> </p>
<p> </p>
<p>                  2009 Country Brand Index Ranking Highlights</p>
<p> </p>
<p> </p>
    Best Country Brand        United States, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Canada
     Ideal for Business
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand             Australia, Japan, Italy, United States,
     to Extend a                                New Zealand
     Business Trip
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand              Italy, France, India, Japan, Greece
     for Art & Culture
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand              Japan, India, Peru, Cambodia, Bhutan
     for Authenticity
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           Tahiti, Bermuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas
     for Beach
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand         Canada, Australia, United States, New Zealand,
     for Families                               Portugal
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand                Egypt, India, Peru, Israel, Italy
     for History
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand         Canada, Tahiti, Bahamas, United States, Mexico
     for Resort &
     Lodging Options
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Tahiti, Costa Rica, Canada, New Zealand, Fiji
     for Natural Beauty
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Japan, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil,
     for Nightlife                               Thailand
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           France, Italy, Japan, Argentina, Singapore
     for Fine Dining
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada,
     for Outdoor                                  Aruba
     Activities & Sports
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand             Tahiti, Barbados, Aruba, Fiji, Bahamas
     for Rest &
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Bermuda
     for Safety
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand             Singapore, United States, Japan, UAE,
     for Shopping                             United Kingdom
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           India, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Bulgaria
     for Value for Money
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland,
     You Would Most Like                      United States
     to Live In
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Germany, Ireland, Canada, Singapore, Bermuda
     for Ease of Travel
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           Germany, Canada, Japan, Finland, Singapore
     for Standard of
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand          Canada, Germany, Australia, United Kingdom,
     for Political                            New Zealand
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           Japan, Germany, United States, Singapore,
     for Advanced                             United Kingdom
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand            Japan, United States, Germany, Finland,
     for Quality Products                      Switzerland
    ---------------------    -------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand        Finland, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Iceland
     for Environmentalism
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand            Fiji, Ireland, Aruba, Thailand, Bermuda
     for Friendly Locals
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand             Singapore, United States, Canada,
     Easiest to Do                      United Kingdom, Germany
     Business In
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand            Japan, Germany, Singapore, United States,
     for Conferences                          United Kingdom
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best New Country for        Japan, United States, United Kingdom, India,
     Business                                   Singapore
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------
    Best Country Brand           Australia, New Zealand, Maldives, Tahiti,
     You Desire to Visit                     United States
     / Visit Again
    ---------------------     ------------------------------------------------

<p>The 2009 Country Brand Index reports a number of emerging trends in travel and tourism that include:</p>

    --  Value-Oriented Mindset - The global economic downturn has led
        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. Whatever type of vacation
        travelers are able to afford, whether this be basic or luxury
        accommodations, consumers expect a bargain. Consumers are thinking
        financial analysts in choosing destinations and properties that are
        undervalued and booking trips that allow them to maintain the style
        they were accustomed to in boom times.

    --  Attitudes Towards Travel Planning - 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
        account for more meaningful and structured travel experiences. This
        being true, the study also finds that even in the downturn, must-do
        travel--whether attending a milestone event like a wedding or taking
        event-driven trip like attending the Super Bowl to support a local
        team--still persists. Additionally, semi-permanent and open road trips
        are also aspects of the travel landscape that are expanding as
        technology permits passengers to plan on the go and hotels largely
        vacancies and thus the ability to accommodate travelers at the last 

    --  The Mystery of Authenticity - 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
        destinations are thriving and other travel experiences are reinventing
        the concept. Below are four trends emerging from this larger
        --  Synthetic Destinations - Destinations conscious of "classic"
            of the past--like Paris, Rome and London--are desperate for a
            of this tourism business and are subsequently planning and buying
            their ways onto the map by upgrading infrastructure and building
            attractions to build the number of foreign visitors and investors.
            Examples of new synthetic destinations include United Arab
            Emirates' man-made islands and Qatar's Museum of Islamic Arts.
        --  Fauxthentic Travel - Travelers looking for authentic experiences
            yet would prefer not to put in the leg work and expense are
            to "faux authentic" hotels and tours for a simulated experience
            replicating the originals. Some travel to the Mayan Temple at
            Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas and take gondola rides at The
            Venetian Las Vegas to have "real" experiences from afar, while
            others pretend to rough it in luxury "tents" at places like the
            Molori Safari Lodge in South Africa while guides give them a real
            taste of the destination.
        --  Tomorrow's Hidden Jewels - For those constantly seeking out the
            next destination untouched by tourism, an authentic travel
            experience is an off-the-beaten path adventure. Destinations such
            as Croatia and Thailand used to top the list of uncharted spots,
            but the study predicts Azerbaijan, Ghana and the Balkans will be
            next to hit adventure seekers' radars.

        --  Cradles of Civilization - Though many of the world's most historic
            places are currently immersed in civil unrest, making them unsafe
            for most visitors, this study predicts an upsurge in visitors to
            these cradles of civilization as the zones become safer.  Examples
            are the Fertile Crescent in Iraq, the Indus Valley in Pakistan and
            the ancient kingdoms of Mali and Songhai in modern-day Mali and

    Rising Stars
<p>CBI also identified the <location>United Arab Emirates</location> (UAE), <location>China</location>, 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, <location>South Africa</location>, and <location>India</location>.</p>

    Study Methodology
<p>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, <location>China</location>, <location>Australia</location>, <location>Japan</location>, <location>Brazil</location>, UAE, <location>Germany</location> and <location>Russia</location>. 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.</p>

    About Weber Shandwick
<p>Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 77 markets around the world.  The firm's success 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 practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, corporate/financial and crisis management.  Its specialized services include digital/social media, advocacy advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility.  Weber Shandwick was recognized as PRWeek's 2009 Global Agency Report Card Gold Medal Winner, named Global Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and Large PR Firm of the Year by PR News in 2008.  The firm also won the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations for a lifestyles educational campaign in <location>India</location>. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE:   IPG).  For more information, visit <a href="http://www.webershandwick.com">http://www.webershandwick.com</a>.</p>

    About FutureBrand
<p>FutureBrand (<a href="http://www.futurebrand.com">www.futurebrand.com</a>), part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE:   IPG), is a leading brand consultancy within IPG that commands a global presence spanning 24 major cities around the world.  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, brand management 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, Dubai World, Intel, Barclays Premier, Nokia, Nestle, MasterCard, UPS and Unilever.</p>
<p> </p>
    Erin Burden                      Rina Plapler
    Weber Shandwick                  FutureBrand
    212-445-8164                     212-931-6443
    eburden@webershandwick.com       rplapler@futurebrand.com


For further information: For further information: Erin Burden, Weber Shandwick, +1-212-445-8164, eburden@webershandwick.com; or Rina Plapler, FutureBrand, +1-212-931-6443, rplapler@futurebrand.com Web Site: http://www.webershandwick.com

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