Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Travel Promotion Act on Hold

Time Runs Down — But Not Out —
For Brand USA Reauthorization

If international attendance is important for your meeting group, you should be rooting for Brand USA to continue promoting U.S. inbound travel.

However, in the narrow window of time before a lame duck Congress leaves Washington, D.C., for its traditional end-of-year holiday recess, the reauthorization of Brand USA remains on hold as of today. [Update 12-10: Sources report that Brand USA reauthorization is part of an omnibus spending bill to be voted on this week.] This despite the fact that under the proposed new law, Brand USA will continue to be financed entirely by foreign visitor fees and money raised from the travel industry, without any U.S. taxpayer funds.

Back on July 22, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed (in a 347-57 vote) H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act of 2014, which reauthorizes Brand USA (originally created through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 and authorized for five years). While the Senate’s companion bill S. 2250 was approved out of committee, it has not made it to the floor for a formal vote. If that doesn’t change, reauthorization will have to wait for the 114th Congress, which will be seated in January.

In the meantime, Brand USA does not go out of business at the end of December, explained Camila Clark, director marketing communications. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization program — fees paid by international travelers to the U.S. — remains in effect through FY2015, which ends September 30, and partner contributions will continue to be accepted. “While we leave the advocacy to others, we are encouraged and hopeful that the progress we’ve made will be recognized through reauthorization,” she said. “Our focus continues on driving visitation and spend in order to strengthen the nation’s economy. And it’s working.”

U.S. Travel Association “holds out every hope” that Brand USA reauthorization can still be brought to the Senate floor, but it is competing for time with a lot of unfinished business, reported a spokesperson. Analysis by the Congressional Budget Office this past July showed that H.R. 4450, if enacted, would reduce the U.S. federal deficit by $231 million over 10 years. Also in July, U.S. Travel released a report that spotlighted Brand USA’s achievements in increasing inbound international travel. Just in 2013, the non-profit, public-private partnership:
• Attracted 1.1 million additional visitors to the U.S.
• Brought in $3.4 billion in additional visitor spending.
• Supported 28,000 direct U.S. jobs.
• Generated nearly $1 billion in federal, local and state tax revenue.
• Yielded a 47:1 return on investment.

According to U.S. Travel, of a record 70 million inbound international visitors last year, each spent $4,500 on average per trip. By 2016, the U.S. will host 81 million visitors, which will add $88 billion to the economy and generate or support 629,000 jobs.

Short-term Visas Extended. Meanwhile, the U.S. and China agreed to mutually extend short-term visas for multiple-entry use for up to 10 years for business and tourist travel. U.S. Travel’s president and CEO Roger Dow applauded the move, saying “the effects will be both strong and immediate” in terms of job creation, exports and economic growth. He pointed out that visitors from China, on average, spend the most travel dollars in the U.S. of any country. China is now the fastest-growing outbound tourism market in the world, and ease of visa policies is a critical determining factor. — Maxine Golding

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