Brand USA is one step closer to survival after a House
subcommittee on Thursday overwhelmingly passed legislation to reauthorize the tourism-marketing
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer
Protection and Commerce passed the bill, which also calls for an increase on
fees paid by international travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries from
$10 to $17. A portion of the Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) fees
are used to fund Brand USA.
U.S. Travel executive vice president for public affairs and
policy Tori Barnes said that with the U.S. losing share in the global inbound
travel market, renewing Brand USA was critical.
"International visitation to the U.S. is flat at a time when
global travel is booming, which means that we are leaving a huge opportunity
for economic growth on the table," Barnes stated. "The situation would be far
worse without Brand USA’s demonstrated effectiveness at bringing lucrative
international visitor dollars to our shores."
The Airlines for America trade group opposed the measure for
raising the ESTA fee and spending money on marketing instead of security.
"We urge Congress to prioritize security and ensure that all
ESTA fees currently collected be available for Customs and Border Protection to
accomplish necessary security functions," Airlines for America said in a
statement. "It is unnecessary to spend scarce resources on marketing when
travel to and within the U.S. continues to reach record levels. As we prepare
for a record 31.6 million passengers this Thanksgiving travel period, resources
are already stretched thin."