Travel Groups Optimistic About Brand USA Funding Amid Shutdown Chatter

With a potential government shutdown looming just before the end-of-year holidays, the U.S. Travel Association and other groups are working to ensure that funding for the Brand USA travel marketing program survives the contentious legislative process.

Much of the debate leading up to a potential government shutdown this week centers on limiting entry to the U.S., with President Trump vowing to veto any funding bill that does not include $5 billion for a border wall. But one line item that travel advocates want to ensure stays a part of any budget plan involves a program that promotes America to the rest of the world.

The U.S. Travel Association and the Visit U.S. Coalition, among others, are angling for a renewal in funding for Brand USA, a public-private partnership that promotes the U.S. as an international travel destination.

“For the travel community, reauthorization of Brand USA remains the central priority for the remainder of the 115th Congress,” U.S. Travel Senior Vice President of Government Relations Tori Barnes wrote on the association’s website. “And thanks to the tireless work by our members and travel industry allies, our champions in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and our partners in the Visit U.S. Coalition, we are as well-positioned as we could possibly be to realize that goal, despite the fraught political landscape.”

Barnes noted that Brand USA has “a course charted for every scenario moving past” this Friday, including a shutdown. She cited wide support for keeping the partnership  on the congressional agenda but added that, if necessary, the incoming 116th Congress could reauthorize the partnership in the first quarter of 2019.

In a recent letter to members of Congress [PDF], the Visit U.S. Coalition called for more-stable funding for Brand USA, citing a move earlier this year to divert fees from the Visa Waiver Program intended for the initiative.

“Without Brand USA, this distribution of international visitors would not have nearly the same level of funding to promote all regions of the country,” the letter stated. “If the United States wants to win international travelers, we need Brand USA more than ever to compete with the travel promotion programs of other countries.”

After a sign-on campaign, the letter was signed by more than 580 organizations—including ASAE, the National Retail Federation, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, among many others.

The Brand USA program, created as a part of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, has helped to bring in 5.4 million visitors to the U.S.  since 2013, generating $17.7 billion in visitor spending and $5 billion in additional tax revenue, according to the coalition.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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