BRAND USA will establish a foothold in the Hong Kong market through the creation of a marketing representation office within the next few months.
Appointed to represent the NTO in Hong Kong is BrandStory, a PR company with presence in Singapore and China, which hopes to get the Brand USA office off the ground by 3Q2013.
The Hong Kong set-up follows similar launches in China and Japan. Brand USA is also aiming to expand its presence to India, Australia and New Zealand within the year.
Besides Brand USA making landfall in Hong Kong, the Visit USA Committee (Hong Kong), a membership-based committee that promotes travel to the US, will also be reactivated, according to US Consulate General – Hong Kong & Macau, commercial specialist, Kimmy Lee.
In March, the local US Consulate General rolled out measures to streamline visa application procedures, a long-standing stumbling block for travellers.
Applicants can now settle visa fees at any 7-Eleven store in Hong Kong or Macau, book visa appointments through a new web-based system, seek assistance from a new call centre, and have their passports delivered to their home or office for free. They can also pick up their passports in person at three locations on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Hong Thai Travel Services’ deputy general manager, Daniel Chan, said: “I hope the Brand USA office in Hong Kong will push more new destinations rather than the traditionally hot cities like San Francisco and New York. Out of all the states, there should be something new to excite Hong Kongers, for example, Miami.”
However, he pointed out that the stringent visa approval process remained a hurdle.
Air capacity is another major concern, as flights between June and September are usually full and tickets are expensive, said Chan. “Flight frequency has not returned to pre-September 11 levels, otherwise airfares would definitely be lower.”