Showtime: Cirque characters help introduce new tourism partnership

A menacing man in yellow stared unflinchingly at the crowd, his 3-foot- long red goatee swaying slightly as he glared. To his right, his comrade’s shiny royal blue hair covered the left side of his face. The right side, unencumbered by the straight hair, was stoic, covered by white paint.

The two may have appeared frightening, but they were at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday morning to promote a new partnership between Cirque du Soleil and Brand USA during IPW, the U.S. Travel Association trade show.

The show, being held through Wednesday, is expected to attract 6,300 delegates from 70 countries. Attendees include travel writers, domestic and international travel agencies, tour operators, travel buyers and suppliers all meeting to learn about new offerings from the U.S. travel industry.

“What Cirque announcement would be complete without bringing some bad guys with us,” Jerry Nadal, senior vice president of resident shows for Cirque du Soleil, said.

Cirque has participated in the trade show for a few years and will be stepping up its involvement in the future, Nadal said.

With 4,000 employees worldwide and a global reach, the brand already is helping to promote travel to the U.S. through working with domestic destination management associations.

Through a new 24-month campaign with Brand USA, Cirque will boost its efforts even more.

“We’d like to think as a brand we have universal appeal because the majority of our shows don’t have any language barriers,” Nadal said.

Called USA Live Entertainment, the new marketing campaign will start in the fourth quarter and include a presence at trade shows.

“Our success and our sustained success will only be attributed to partnerships with amazing brands like Cirque du Soleil,” Chris Thompson, Brand USA’s president and CEO, said.

In addition to the Cirque partnership, he also announced the USA Discovery Program, an online learning program that is positioned to help promote travel.

In its first year, Brand USA launched ad campaigns in Canada, U.K. and Japan.

Next week, it’s adding Mexico and Brazil, and will be adding more markets, including South Korea, Germany and China, by the end of the year.

Since the campaigns have launched, intent to travel to the U.S. rose by 22 percent in Canada, 14 percent in the U.K., and 22 percent in Japan.

The Department of Commerce also announced tourism numbers from 2012 on Monday.

International travel and tourism spending in the U.S. reached a record $168.1 billion in 2012, up 10 percent from 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Also, a record 67 million international visitors came to the U.S. last year, an increase of 4.3 million from 2011.

In all, 22.7 million Canadians visited, up 6 percent from 2011. Mexico placed second with a record 14.5 million arrivals, up 8 percent. The U.K., down 2 percent; Japan, up 14 percent; and Germany, up 3 percent, rounded out the top five.

Countries with the largest increases from 2011 were: China, up 35 percent; Colombia, up 21 percent; Venezuela and Argentina, both up 20 percent; and Brazil, up 19 percent.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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