U.S. Travel Encouraged by Movement on Brand USA Senate Bill

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On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation overwhelmingly passed S. 2203, the “Brand USA Extension Act.”

U.S. Travel thanks Chairman Roger Wicker (MS), Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (WA) and the rest of the committee for their attention to this bill, and applauds the bill’s co-sponsors—Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)—for their tireless efforts to advance this important piece of legislation.

The timing of the bill is crucial. Travel is America’s second-largest industry export, generating a trade surplus of $69 billion last year—a surplus that prevented the overall national trade deficit from being 11% higher. However, travel’s economic benefits are threatened by a declining share of the global travel market, which dropped from 13.7% in 2015 to its current 11.7%—a decline that represents a difference of 14 million visitors, a hit to the economy of $59 billion in spending and 120,000 American jobs.

Brand USA has been key to preventing the decline in market share from being worse. Brand USA keeps the U.S. competitive and, as Ranking Member Cantwell noted during the markup, ensures all pockets of America reap the economic benefits of international inbound tourism. According to a return-on-investment study released earlier this year by Oxford Economics, Brand USA’s marketing efforts over the past six years have generated:

  • 6.6 million incremental international visitors to the U.S.
  • $22 billion in visitor spending
  • $47.7 billion total economic impact
  • Support for an average of 52,000 incremental American jobs every year
  • An average marketing return-on-investment of 28:1

"Brand USA is very important to Colorado,” said Sen. Gardner. “We’ve had eight record years in a row for tourism…[this bill] is particularly important because of the number of foreign visitors that we attract to our state."

“[This bill] is an effort to have more foreign travelers visit our country,” said Sen. Blunt. “It has been in place for a decade now; it has worked well.”

Robust international visitation to the U.S. is economically essential. International visitor spending is considered an export, even though the transaction is taking place on U.S. soil. Overseas visitors spend an average of $4,200 per trip—significantly more than the $900 spent by domestic travelers—and help lower America’s overall trade deficit.

Brand USA was reauthorized in 2014 with broad bipartisan support because it is a proven success that works for America. That enthusiasm was evidenced today during the Senate committee’s markup, with all but one senator voting in favor of the bill. The May 2019 “Dear Colleague” sign-on letter that garnered the signatures of nearly 50 senators was also submitted for the record by Sen. Blunt as proof of the program’s widespread support.

U.S. Travel is encouraged by the positive momentum of this bill, and stands alongside the Visit U.S. Coalition and our industry partners to assist Congress and the administration in continuing vital tourism marketing efforts. This bill is vital to ensuring the future of America’s travel planning and promotion—and the livelihoods of the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs are supported by this industry.

We thank the committee for its consideration of the Brand USA Extension Act, and hope to soon see its passage and Brand USA’s ultimate long-term reauthorization.