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America's Lousy Logo: 10 Countries With Better Tourism Brands Than Ours

The country of Peru has a new logo to woo tourists. Lots of countries, including the U.S., have logos for foreigners and most people don't think very much about them, which is odd considering how massive tourism is as an industry. The U.S. earned about $120 billion from tourists in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Now take a look at America's official tourism logo:

Yikes. It's terrible. With its stars and stripes it looks like a presidential campaign logo and says nothing about why foreigners should come here. It seems to be catering more to the way we like think about ourselves -- patriotic, future-oriented -- than to those who might be interested in visiting. (When was the last time you went on vacation to the most "patriotic" destination you could afford?)

Peru, by contrast, has gone with something rather risky and modern. The spiral represents the pyramid archaeological sites that are a big part of its draw. The typeface was created from scratch and is highly distinctive. There's a question as to whether foreigners will be confused by the technically accurate accent above the "u" -- a distracted reader might conclude that the word says "Denil" -- but let's give Peru 10/10 for trying to be different. It's a lot less cheesy than its old logo, which featured a parrot and a Mayan engraving.

America is falling behind in the national logo race. Look how evocative the tourist brands of other countries are:

India suffers from stereotypes to do with spicy food, saris, and saffron colored everything. So its logo -- with a clever exclamation point device -- asks you to be prepared to be surprised.

Australia has embraced its stereotype: Kangaroos? We got 'em:

It could have gone with beaches or the Sydney Opera House or any of its other areas of outstanding natural beauty, but given that kangaroos, while cliched, carry no negative baggage, why not stick with a winning team?

Mexico and Bermuda have employed similar strategies, emphasizing what they're already known for, no matter how irrelevant that might be during an actual visit.

Britain seems to be following the American example, of flying the flag and hoping that's enough.

But France proves you can be both patriotic and interesting: Its stylized tricolore suggests romance awaits:

Now look at a couple of other countries that, like Peru, are pushing the envelope. Spain has for a long time used this highly differentiated painted logo, that nonetheless captures what the country is best known for -- hot weather. (It also utilizes the colors of the national flag.)

Like Spain and Peru, Egypt also commissioned its own typeface, where the "t" evokes the ankh symbol often seen in hieroglyphs.

But the Bahamas has really pushed the boat out, incorporating a stylized map of its archipelago. The device is clever because on the Bahamas web site it morphs into an actual map of the country that allows you to click on each island to see what's there.

U.S. tourism's brand image is feeble by comparison. Until recently, America didn't even bother advertising abroad. It left that job to the individual states, which is why the official tourism web site for the U.S. is this uninviting mess. Congress passed a $100 million marketing campaign to change that, but clearly we still have some catching up to do.


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