Committee Approves Bill to Boost Tourism and Job Creation

July 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce today approved H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act, by voice vote. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT), reauthorizes funding for Brand USA, a public-private partnership originally created by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 that helps market U.S. destinations to international travelers at no cost to taxpayers. Bilirakis’ bill also includes important reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the program.

“Passage of H.R. 4450 will be good for the economy. It’s a jobs bill,” said Bilirakis. “A recent analysis performed by the independent firm Oxford Economics estimated that, in fiscal year 2013, Brand USA generated 1.1 million additional international visitors who spent an estimated $3.4 billion dollars, generating economic revenue and supporting job creation in communities across America.”

Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) said, “I thank Congressman Bilirakis for his hard work not only in crafting a smart bill with appropriate reforms, but also gaining bipartisan support. Now, Florida and California are known worldwide for tourist attractions like Disneyland, Hollywood, and Disney World. But the travel industry is a huge economic driver across the rest of the nation as well. Without using taxpayer dollars, the program greatly increases tourism and adds jobs across the nation.”

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “This bill would reauthorize funding for Brand USA and increase accountability and transparency of the program. Just last week I held a roundtable in my district to discuss the tremendous benefits – thousands of local jobs and roughly a billion dollars contributed to the economy annually in Southwest Michigan alone – that come from tourism. Extending Brand USA will help market the United States as a world-class destination, and continue to attract visitors and economic growth to local communities.”

A broad group of stakeholders support this jobs bill. To view a full list of supporters, click HERE.

In Case You Missed It:

CONSERVATIVES SEEKING BRAND USA REFORM IN REAUTHORIZATION BILL

… Brand USA, as it was once known “The Corporation for Travel Promotion,” is financed by private donations and a $10 fee on foreign visitors, who travel to the United States from a country covered by the visa waiver program.

The funds are deposited in an account held by the Treasury Department, and drawn upon by Brand USA as reimbursements for its own expenses to promote travel to the United States. Since its inception, the program is reportedly responsible for generating over 1.1 million visits to the US generating an estimated $3.4 billion in spending by tourists at no cost to taxpayers. …

Bilirakis, who said he wanted to reform the program because it’s bang for the buck. “Brand USA is a public-private partnership that markets the United States as a tourism destination. Brand USA is supported by international visitors and private contributions – not U.S. taxpayers.”

The Bilirakis bill increased the professionalism and experience required of Brand USA’s Board of Directors – specifically at least two members of the board shall have audit committee expertise as defined by the SEC. It also requires Brand USA to establish performance metrics to measure the impact of Brand USA’s marketing efforts and to demonstrate its benefit to the U.S. economy.

Read the full article online HERE.

A Win is a Win

Sometimes conservative wins come in small packages. But a win is a win. That’s what happened this past week in the House of Representatives when a subcommittee added reforms to legislation designed to encourage tourism into the United States.

There is little debate that tourism is a major job and wealth creator for the country and you don’t have to live in a place like Hawaii to see the benefits. 70 million international travelers visited the United States last year alone. They spent over $180 billion in goods and services supporting over two million jobs in the United States.  Tourists’ money is good for America.

We are, of course, not the only destination for world travelers. There is fierce competition among nations most of who spend heavily to encourage tourists to spend their travel dollars in their respective countries. In 2009, the Congress passed legislation designed to increase our share of international visitation the result of which is a program called Brand USA. The entity is a public private partnership that is funded by private donations and a once-annual fee charged to foreign travelers entering the U.S. The program advertises and markets overseas the benefits of traveling to America and has resulted in a significant increase in travelers choosing America as their destination.

Despite the absence of taxpayer money, some believe there have been some issues of public trust and have taken issue with the management of the program. To address these concerns, a House subcommittee unanimously passed legislation reauthorizing the program that added a number of provisions designed to increase transparency in the program and to establish critical performance metrics designed to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. Critically, the reforms also require a competitive procurement process to certify that any contracts the program enters into are in compliance with that new process. …

Read the full article online HERE.

###