The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the U.S. Travel Association have both praised the current Congressional bipartisan effort to reauthorize Brand USA, the non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to increasing inbound international travel to the United States.
The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 has been introduced in the House by Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and in the Senate by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
It will reauthorize Brand USA and collection of ESTA fees from foreign travelers through 2020. It also includes increased oversight and accountability measures. The current authorization expires at the end of FY2015.
“ASTA is proud to have nearly 800 international members who drive ‘inbound’ travel to the U.S., and as such strongly supports efforts to help the U.S. recapture our historic share of worldwide overseas travel," said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s president and CEO. He said the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act is essential to marketing the United States as a desirable destination for international tourists, conferences and business.
“We applaud Representatives Bilirakis and Welch and Senators Klobuchar and Blunt for their bipartisan commitment to generating jobs and economic activity through increased travel," Kerby said. "Every inbound international traveler stimulates the U.S. economy."
In 2010, Congress passed the Travel Promotion Act (P.L. 111-145) with broad, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate. The law created a non-profit organization, Brand USA, as a public-private partnership to promote increased inbound international travel to the U.S. Brand USA is supported by international visitors and private contributions – not U.S. taxpayers.
"Through partnerships with America's communities and states, Brand USA has been a powerful force in promoting our nation's destinations around the world and attracting more international visitors and their dollars," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "What's more remarkable, the program delivers these benefits all without costing U.S. taxpayers one dime."
Half of Brand USA's budget comes from the private sector through cash and in-kind contributions with the rest – up to a maximum of $100 million – funded through a nominal fee assessed on visa-free international visitors screened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
A recent analysis performed by the independent analysis firm Oxford Economics estimated that in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Brand USA generated 1.1 million additional international visitors who spent an estimated $3.4 billion – generating revenue and supporting jobs in communities across America.
For the past several years, ASTA has been working with the U.S. Travel Association, Brand USA and others to increase international visitation to the U.S. While the number of global long-haul travelers increased by 61 million from 2000 to 2010, the number of overseas visitors to the United States stayed flat. This inability to keep pace has cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
ASTA said the reauthorization is a priority as the Association has nearly 800 international members with the potential to drive significant “inbound” travel plus lowering barriers to visitation to the U.S. will spur other countries to reciprocate, which has the potential to spur additional U.S. “outbound” travel and business for domestic travel agents. Dow, for his part, said that the U.S. Travel Association has evidence that "states and communities stand to benefit immensely from the renewal of this tested, proven program."