Australia ranks as the top overall country brand, according to the second annual Country Brand Index, conducted by Weber Shandwick Worldwide and sister company FutureBrand and released at Travel Market, an annual exhibition for the global travel trade. The United States and Italy ranked second and third, respectively. 

The CBI identifies countries as brands and emerging global travel trends in the world’s fastest-growing economic sector, travel and tourism. The 2006 CBI also identified China, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates as the top three “rising star” countries, those likely to be major tourism destinations in the next five years.

“Countries can no longer continue to see themselves as commodities.  A country brand is more than tourism: it is exports, investments, trade and industry,” says Rina Plapler, executive director of FutureBrand. “We continue to believe that branding is a tremendous opportunity for both developed and developing countries to build preference, consideration, loyalty and advocacy.”

The CBI also reports that new trends in travel and tourism are emerging: a new generation of travel content no longer relies on authoritative experts and a growing attraction to the scarce and the limited. Audiences are seeking intoxicating spas, “health-tels,” semi-permanent vacation homes and commemoration trips abroad for weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and more.

“If travel and tourism is the world’s second largest industry—often driving entire national economies—governments should be focusing more attention on how their destinations not only market themselves, but also influence and improve the experience for every visitor,” says René Mack, president of Weber Shandwick’s global travel practice.