Both houses draft bills to continue funding Brand USA

Bipartisan bills have been introduced in the Senate and House to reauthorize funding through 2020 for Brand USA, the public-private organization that promotes travel to the U.S.

Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act in the House; Sens. Amy Klobucahar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The bills have been introduced because funding reauthorization for Brand USA is buried in an immigration bill that is stalled in the House. Without reauthorization, Brand USA's funding would cease in September 2015.

Meanwhile, the House Republican budget resolution for fiscal year 2015, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calls for the elimination of Brand USA. The House approved the budget Thursday on a 219 to 205 vote; no House Democrats voted for it. 

Brand USA is funded through a 50/50 combination of private contributions and fees that the U.S. government collects from international visitors who come to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Travel industry organizations praised the Senate and House bills that would reauthorize Brand USA.

ASTA CEO Zane Kerby called reauthorization "essential to marketing the United States as a desirable destination for international tourists, conferences and business."

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said, "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. What's more remarkable, the program delivers these benefits all without costing U.S. taxpayers one dime."

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly. 
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