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AHLA urges Congress to support critical Brand USA program

AHLA urges Congress to support critical Brand USA program

Travel and tourism is a critical driver of the U.S. economy, generating $2.3 trillion in economic output and responsible for one in nine American jobs. That’s why we are concerned that the Administration’s budget proposal eliminates federal funding for Brand USA, a public-private partnership that has been a catalyst responsible for driving more than 4.4 million incremental international visitors to the U.S. and supports thousands of American jobs,” said Katherine Lugar, AHLA president and CEO.

“In the last several years, Brand USA has been a powerful force in providing America with a competitive edge and has served as a highly successful promotional program attracting millions of visitors from countries near and far. The program boosts the U.S. economy as Brand USA results in nearly $32 billion in total economic impact, contributes nearly $4 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and supports an average of nearly 50,000 incremental jobs a year – jobs that cannot be exported and which extend well beyond the travel industry.”

“The program has had long-lasting and overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, across all travel sectors. With travel season upon us, it is important for lawmakers to understand the benefits of this program. We need Brand USA’s strong marketing message to remind visitors that the U.S. is open for business.

“As the economy picks up steam, now is the time to ensure the vital economic contributions made by the tourism industry to the nation’s GDP remain strong. We look forward to actively engaging with both key officials in the Administration and Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to encourage them to keep Brand USA intact and ensure certainty and economic stability.”

U.S. Inbound Tour Operators Urge Continued Funding for Brand USA
In response to President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, which recommends zero appropriations for the federal matching funds needed to operate Brand USA, the International Inbound Travel Association urges Congress to continue funding for Brand USA, the tourism marketing organization for the United States.

Brand USA is funded by an annual match of $100 million from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization fees paid by international visitors traveling to the United States from visa waiver countries, provided Brand USA collects an equal amount or more from the travel industry.  No federal taxes are used to fund the program.

“Since the establishment of Brand USA through the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, the United States has seen dramatic increases in arriving visitors from all key markets,” said Lisa Simon, IITA Executive Director. “We are particularly pleased that Brand USA has leveraged its funding to help grow international inbound business to every corner of the United States, including all states and territories.

“This ill-advised zeroing out of this important organization, which has demonstratively grown jobs, trade revenue and economic impact for the United States, will be our major focus until it has been reversed by both houses of Congress and funding restored in the FY18 federal budget,” Simon noted.

Gary Schluter, General Manager of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, is both the Chairman of IITA and a member of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, thereby deeply involved in all national policy issues affecting inbound tourism.

“The mandate for Brand USA under the Travel Promotion Act is two-fold,” Schluter observed. “First and most obviously is the promotion of the United States as the world’s most desirable travel destination. Second, however, is the requirement that Brand USA communicate U.S. entry policies and assist international visitors with the requirements and procedures to visit the United States.

“At a time when two proposed travel bans to curtail visitation from several named countries and anecdotal reports of more restrictive practices on acquiring U.S. visas are part of the challenge to grow inbound tourism, our operators rely on the support of Brand USA. Without its presence in the market, global efforts to explain visa policies and procedures, as well as marketing the United States, will fall back on the efforts of individual destinations and key private sector companies, such as our inbound operators, who by their narrower focus and with much more limited resources, will diminish the marketing of America bound to reduce US world market .”

IITA will work diligently as the voice of the inbound tour operators who have the most direct contact with international visitors to ensure the continued funding of Brand USA.

“We will fight for Brand USA until it is fully refunded for 2018,” Schluter said. 

IITA is the International Inbound Travel Association – the only professional association devoted exclusively to the professional advancement and promotion of the U.S. inbound travel industry. IITA members include inbound operators, destinations and suppliers (lodging companies, transportation, attractions, restaurants, etc.) from across the country.

Statement from National Tour Association President Pam Inman
“The federal budget for fiscal year 2018 proposed by the White House includes the elimination of Brand USA. This action would not only be a detriment to the United States’ travel and tourism industry, but it also would negatively impact the $2.3 trillion that travel and tourism generate, as well as the 15 million jobs the industry supports.

“Brand USA is a bipartisan program that receives no funding from U.S. taxpayers. This program is instead financed through a combination of private-sector investment and matched by fees collected from international travelers visiting the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
Brand USA is an organization focused solely on promoting the United States as a travel destination and communicating U.S. entry policies.

“According to studies conducted by Oxford Economics over the past three years, Brand USA has brought more than 3 million additional international visitors to the U.S., benefitting the economy with more than $21 billion in business sales and supporting an annual average of nearly 50,000 jobs that, without Brand USA’s efforts, would not exist. 

“It would be a mistake for the United States government to no longer market our nation as a top worldwide travel destination, especially considering that international travel is one of the United States’ top exports. It is our hope that Congress, by declining this piece of the administration’s budget proposal, will rightfully recognize the key role that travel and tourism play, in not only the U.S. economy, but also in the millions of jobs the industry supports.”

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