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NTA Members Seek More Backers for Brand USA Reauthorization

May 20, 2014

With authorization for Brand USA set to expire, NTA is marshaling its members to generate Congressional support for reauthorization.

“Brand USA has been enormously successful in bringing more tourists—and the money they spend—into the United States, and our members are urging their legislators to get behind Brand USA’s reauthorization,” said Catherine Prather, interim president of NTA. “Nearly 40 percent of NTA’s 700 tour company members package travel inbound to North America, and Brand USA is pumping more visitors into the pipeline.”

Currently in front of the U.S. House and Senate are twin bills named the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014. Both bills renew funding for Brand USA though 2020, and both have bipartisan support, with 95 co-sponsors between them. Travel and tourism advocates are urging the passage of the bills because earlier provisions to fund Brand USA were included in an immigration bill that has stalled in the House.

“I’m asking Alabama’s members of Congress to join the growing list of co-sponsors for the Brand USA bill,” said Patti Culp, executive director of the Alabama Travel Council and a member of the NTA Board of Directors. “Inbound tourism is a key component of our state and country’s economies, and Brand USA is making it happen.”

Brand USA has stimulated inbound travel to the United States by conducting marketing campaigns and opening tourism offices in key countries. In 2013, Brand USA generated 1.1 million additional international visitors, a 2.3 percent increase over the growth that would have occurred without Brand USA’s initiatives. Those added visitors created an economic impact of an additional $3.4 billion and supported 53,000 new jobs.

“The ROI is off the charts—something like 47 to one—and we need to maintain the momentum,” Culp said. Other NTA members—including Brian Butterworth of Massachusetts and Tom Jaffa of Washington state—are also asking members of Congress from their states to support the Brand USA bills and sign on as co-sponsors.

“NTA backed Brand USA before it was even named, and we’re still 100 percent on board,” said Prather, referring to the association’s strident support of the 2010 Travel Promotion Act, which led to Brand USA’s creation. “Other countries were actively marketing themselves, and without Brand USA, the United States was falling behind in tourism growth. Brand USA has put inbound tourism on the right track.”

The bills in the Senate (S. 2250) and House (H.R. 4450) authorize a portion of fees paid by international visitors to go toward funding Brand USA. The quasi-public agency also operates on money raised from private contributions. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are sponsoring the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act in the House; and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are sponsors of the companion bill in the Senate. As of May 20, the House bill has 70 co-sponsors, and the Senate bill has 25.

While the current funding arrangement for Brand USA extends through the summer of 2015, the House budget resolution for 2015, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calls for the elimination of Brand USA.

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