While the overall world economy is lackluster, foreign tourists are taking advantage of a favorable exchange rate to visit the United States. International tourism to the US is big business with 65 million foreign tourists visiting the each year and these visitors represent an excellent opportunity for many restaurants to grow their business.

In a Foodservice Radio interview, Chris Perkins, Vice President of Marketing for Brand USA, talks about the opportunities these tourists present to local and regional restaurants. Brand USA is a public-private partner created by the Travel Promotion Act, with the purpose of promoting American as a travel destination to foreign tourists.

There are several ways a restaurant can tap into this market. "Virtually every city around the United States has a Convention and Visitor's Bureau or some local organized tourism entity. Participating with them in their domestic and convention business, as well as their growing interest in international, is a really smart business move," say Perkins. In addition, "there are growing regional and national efforts toward Restaurant Weeks. From an international perspective we are seeing the culinary experience, the foodie experience, as a key driver for some international markets."

Perkins suggests that restaurants take a look at their operation when targeting international visitors. "Be very much aware of the multicultural nature of visitors to the US. There needs to be a very simple menu and great signage. Any way a restaurateur can make themselves more accessible to someone who might not use English as their first or even second language, the better suited they will be to capture that business." For example, how easy is it for a non-English speaking guest to find the correct restroom?

All segments can benefit from international tourism. "It crosses the spectrum," says Perkins. "A lot of what we talk about is the diversity of options in the United States, and that is a large part of what people look for when they come here."

A social media presence is another good tool in helping tourists find a dining destination. "Having a great website and having active social engagement on the major sites are great mechanisms. People are already talking about you in the space, so to the extent that you can curate that conversation and attend to their concerns, it will benefit you over time." Active social engagement also encourages visitors to talk about your operation in social media, leading to additional business.

For more information on BrandUSA contact www.thebrandusa.com.

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Tourism Partnerships - Tap into the international travel market
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