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BrandUSA In Jeopardy

How can that be you say? Don’t let Congress’ lack of good sense ruin this amazing program. Here’s what needs to be done to save this amazing tourism driver.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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Don’t underestimate Congress’s ability to make poor decisions. Arguably one of the most successful government programs that actually makes money may be cancelled. The hotel industry must rally to keep our elected officials from making yet another horrendous mistake with our country’s future.

I am referring to BrandUSA of course; the public-private partnership created in 2010 to help attract millions of international visitors by promoting this country as a premier travel destination. And get this, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Yet here we are as an industry trying to make sure this program gets reauthorized.

In my opinion, if your elected official does not vote to reauthorize this bill then it is time to vote them out this November during midterm elections because they are obviously incapable of making the right decisions that help improve the future financial security of your district and our country.

Fortunately there are a couple of Congressman who get this no brainer concept and are pushing to get this legislation (S.4450) signed this summer.

It doesn’t get any simpler than this look at BrandUSA’s impact on tourism. A recently-released report on their efforts shows:
  • 1.1 million incremental visitors, who spent
  • $3.4 billion on purchases and U.S. carriers travel/fare receipts, resulting in
  • $7.4 billion in total sales, which supported over
  • 53,000 new U.S. jobs,
“I am really excited about this piece of legislation,” said Congressman Gus Bilrakis (R-FL) during a conference call held with industry influencers earlier today. “I recommend we press the leadership particularly on my side. We just have to continue to educate the members of Congress and tell them how important this is to their districts and emphasize we are not using tax payer dollars.”

Bilrakis says the bill already has more than 100 cosponsors including 64 democrats and 46 republicans.

“One hundred sponsors is not enough, the more we get the better. Our industry partners are doing an outstanding job but we have to keep the pressure on. We are looking to get things done here and this is something we can all rally around,” said Bilrakis noting he will continue to push republican members of Congress to sign up as cosponsors but warned “We have a long ways to go, there is no question.”

On the other side of the aisle, Peter Welch (D-VT) said he believes this bill is bi-partisan enough to actually get passed. That is, if they can get more representatives to understand this bill.

“We have a pretty dysfunctional Congress as you all know, but there are things we can and should get done. When we have something like this public private sponsorship… we can get this passed even with difficulties in Congress,” said Welch.

Welch explained that utilizing no taxpayer money “excites colleagues” and money generated from the program is raised by contributions from the hospitality industry and a fund created by a fee charged to foreigners from visa waiver countries visiting the United States.

“You have to advertise and establish a brand. It’s important to step back and promote the incredible opportunities people have when they come and visit our country. To solve long term problems like a sustainable budget and tax reform Congress has to cooperate and this broad based program is starting to reactivate that muscle we let atrophy of working together to get good things done for the country,” said Welch.

According to BrandUSA President/CEO Christopher L. Thompson, tourism is the number one service export accounting for 25 percent of all services our nation exports.

“We had record visitation of nearly 70 million people spending near $181 billlion last year. This is a huge economic driver to our country and contributed to nearly every state. [This program] drives visitation and extends stays and improves market share,” said Thompson who also pointed out that the U.S.A.’s share of the tourism pie has remained flat as the number of people traveling globally soar. It’s so bad the country has lost 37% of its market share during the last decade.

“We are real excited and have had near 400 businesses step up and participate in this program which is funded by visitors from 38 visa waiver countries. The lodging sector been one of the most engaged partners and virtually all hotel brands are at the table and working with us,” said Thompson.

BrandUSA has a pool of $100 million per year on average to advertise the U.S.A. in other countries.

Thompson added that current advertising campaigns are being show in the top 10 markets generating travel to the U.S.A. which accounts for 75 percent of foreign nationals visiting.

“The enemy is passivity,” said Welch. “This [program] is valuable to virtually every member of Congress to have this promotion to get more tourism dollars in their districts. You have to have your people in each district contact members of Congress and say get on the Gus Bilrakis bill. There are ideological issue here. This is bread and bitter stuff back home and we have support on both sides. The key here is to motivate other members of Congress to join us.”
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