Last-ditch effort to save Brand USA
 
Last-ditch effort to save Brand USA
29 JULY 2014 6:10 AM
As the U.S. Senate considers reauthorization of Brand USA, it’s important to set the record straight on the urgent need for tourism promotion.
Hotel owners, operators and investors in the United States are holding their collective breath, hoping the U.S. Senate passes the crucial Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act of 2014 before Congress recesses for the month of August. A month is a long time during which anti-tourism forces (let’s call them that because that’s what they are) could marshal enough clout to derail this crucial legislation reauthorizing the nation’s tourism marketing agency, Brand USA.
 
So once again, it is time for everyone in the hotel industry—whether you’re a doorman or a brand company CEO—to flex whatever civic muscle you can muster to get the message to your senators that this legislation is important to the hotel business, the tourism industry, the nation’s economy and security and to our collective efforts to create jobs.
 
That seems like a simple message no one could dispute. Brand USA has had some stunning results in its brief history while costing taxpayers not one dime. Here are a few facts highlighting the effectiveness of Brand USA, as compiled by the Congressional Budget Office:
 
  • In 2013, the U.S. attracted 1.1 million more visitors than the previous year.
  • The additional visitation resulted in $3.4 billion in visitor spending, supporting 53,000 new U.S. jobs.
  • Nearly $1 billion in federal, state and local taxes were generated.
  • Passage of the law would reduce the federal deficit by $231 million over the next 10 years.
 
One of the prevailing political winds blowing through the U.S. is one that advocates for less government, lower taxes and less so-called crony capitalism. The ultra-conservative Club for Growth two weeks ago issued a scathing memo it hopes will influence senators — particularly those looking to burnish their conservative credentials — to turn down the measure.
 
The group’s manifesto declares Brand USA a “slush fund promoted and administered by companies in the tourism industry that are wrongly using the taxing authority of the federal government to help finance their profits.”
 
The memo also argues falsely, in my viewpoint, that foreign governments take offense to the U.S. promoting its tourism industry and will somehow retaliate with protectionist measures. Never mind that most every developed country in the world spends more than the U.S. to promote tourism efforts.
 
The arguments put forward by this group and others ring hollow once the facts are brought to light and presented to members of the Senate as they take up this legislation.
 
Brand USA is fully funded through a combination of surcharges placed on visitors to the U.S. from visa waiver countries, and monetary and in-kind investments from U.S. tourism companies, including many hotel companies. Again, no tax dollars are spent in this effort.
 
Yet, the most important point is that Brand USA is not a tool to enrich capitalists. At its basic core, the campaign to attract more tourists in the country is a jobs creator. Put another way, for every hotel owner, operator or executive helped by the efforts of Brand USA, there are 10, 100 or 1,000 jobs created for lower- and middle-class Americans. That’s smart policy, not cronyism.
 
Let’s get the message out.
 
Email Ed Watkins or find him on Twitter.
 
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