Australia named top country brand for third year

Sun Nov 9, 2008 10:32pm EST
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CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Tourism campaigns featuring bikini-clad models and images of the outback as in the new epic movie "Australia" have helped Australia win the title of world's top country brand for the third consecutive year.

An annual country branding index designed to track travel trends and pinpoint opportunities for tourism had Canada rising to second place in the list of countries with the best brand reputations after coming sixth last year.

The United States slipped one place to be ranked third in the index compiled from a survey of 2,700 travelers from nine countries by brand consultancy FutureBrand and public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

Other countries to make the top 10 in the fourth annual Country Brand Index (CBI) were Italy, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and Sweden.

The index identified China, the United Arab Emirates and Croatia as the top three "rising stars" - those likely to become major tourist destinations in the next five years.

FutureBrand's senior executive director Rina Plapler said some countries were now taking on board the idea of brand but this was still a largely underdeveloped category with most countries not using marketing to differentiate themselves.

"Particularly in the coming years, country brands must improve both their strategic orientation as well as their delivery," she said in a statement, referring to tougher times ahead for the travel industry.

Australia has just launched a global tourism campaign pitching itself as a place to "find yourself" aligned with the outback movie "Australia" released this month starring Nicole Kidman, focusing on the beauty of the country's vast landscape.

Tourism numbers to Australia dropped 4.7 percent last year as the country relied on a failed campaign starring a bikini-clad model asking "where the bloody hell are you?"   Continued...

<p>The Sydney Opera house and Harbour bridge are seen at sun set in Sydney September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz</p>