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More foreign travelers make US trips after marketing nudge

Tourists flood Times Square in New York.
Getty Images
Tourists flood Times Square in New York.

A little marketing can go a long way when it comes to luring travelers, even if you're a well-known destination like the United States. That's the message from Brand USA, the public-private partnership created in 2010 to stop the U.S. from shedding its share of the world's tourists.

The U.S. was increasingly losing out to spots such as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

(Read more: Travel trend: 'Get me somewhere warm now')

According to the Department of Commerce, 67 million international travelers visited the United States in 2012.

And Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, said that not all of them would have come without a nudge from a $72 million marketing campaign focused on eight countries.That expenditure elicited 1.1 million trips and $7.4 billion in spending that otherwise would have gone to other destinations, according to a report that the firm released Thursday.

It covers the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2013, so it uses both the actual expenditures and trips of 2012 along with spending estimates for 2013. Actual tourism spending for 2013 isn't yet available.

"In 2012, 10 percent of all Canadians came to Florida." -Kathy Torian, spokesperson for Visit Florida

"It got very competitive—there were lots of voices in the market," Thompson said of all the locations being promoted online.

The Brand USA campaign targeted Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and Australia. The countries already had high numbers of tourists to the United States, and the aim was to attract more. (Other countries, such as China, were courted but not with full campaigns.)

Foreign travelers tend to be lucrative for the United States, spending about $4,500 a person on a trip that typically lasts 10 days to two weeks. Canada and the United Kingdom are among the countries with the most U.S. tourists—a trend Florida is particularly accustomed to seeing.

"In 2012, 10 percent of all Canadians [about 3.6 million people] came to Florida," said Kathy Torian, a spokesperson for Visit Florida.

(Read more: Airports ramping up downtown rail connections)

A recent shift for the Sunshine State has been the influx of Brazilians. About 1.7 million visited in 2012, surpassing the U.K.'s 1.5 million.

"Shopping" is their preferred activity as tourists, Torian said. Florida racked up 13.9 million foreign visitors in 2012, with spending on hotels, airfare and restaurants reaching $14.9 billion.

Los Angeles is another location celebrating its foreign travel numbers. Last week the city announced a record 6.2 million visitors for 2013, with China showing 21 percent year-over-year growth.

"The third consecutive record-breaking year for tourism underscores that Los Angeles has emerged as a leading global tourist destination," said Ernest Wooden Jr., president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. Overall, the city attracted 42.2 million visitors last year.

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Those numbers will help the U.S. to reach its national goal of 100 million international travelers by 2021.

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyLangfield.

Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.

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