WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rolling out the welcome mat to international travelers is more important than ever, travel leaders said Monday at the U.S. Travel Association's annual IPW event. 

Noting Brand USA's mission to "market the welcome," CEO Chris Thompson said its new social marketing campaign was called "One Big Welcome."

"Many communities are doing their own welcome messages," he said. "This is layering on top of that."

Thompson and other speakers were careful to say that while protecting a nation comes first, that it didn't need to mean turning away legitimate travelers.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spoke to that issue during his keynote address.

"Without security, there will be little travel," he said. "But let me be clear: America is open for business. America is open for travel. America is open for international travelers."

Speaking to an industry that is clearly concerned about a potential downturn in visitors to the U.S., Ross said, "This administration recognizes the power of travel as an enabling platform for business, a gateway to education, and a bridge to bring people together."

His speech comes only two weeks after the Trump administration's proposed budget called for the elimination of Brand USA, which the travel leaders here urged Congress not to do.

Calling Brand USA's mission more important than ever, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said that "unilaterally disarming the marketing of the U.S. as a travel destination would be to surrender market share at the worst possible time."

"Brand USA is here to stay," he said. "It's simple as that. Sometimes little mistakes get made in Washington, and we'll correct that mistake."


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