Representatives from Brand USA and the U.S. Travel
Association told a congressional subcommittee that if Brand USA is not renewed,
the U.S. would continue to lose market share of international visitors.
U.S. Travel Association executive vice president for public
affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes told the Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce that the U.S. share of the
global travel market had dropped from 13.7% in 2015 to 11.7% in 2018, a decline
of 14 million visitors and a hit to the economy of about $60 billion in
"If nothing is done, our market share will continue to erode
and is projected to fall below 11% by 2021," Barnes said. "This is why it is
crucial for Congress to reauthorize Brand USA this year."
Brand USA was created by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009
and reauthorized by Congress in 2014. The agency will expire next year without
action by Congress.
"If Brand USA were eliminated, the United States would be
the only top 20 country destination without a national travel promotion budget,"
Barnes reminded the subcommittee that Brand USA costs the U.S.
taxpayers nothing -- it is funded by fees paid by inbound travelers plus
matching contributions from private companies -- and that competing nations
have huge taxpayer-funded budgets, such as Australia ($120 million) and Japan
Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson told the subcommittee that the
organization needs to be reauthorized now, as opposed to waiting until next
year, for the U.S. to remain competitive, because destination marketing plans
are developed about 12 months prior to launching campaigns.
Thompson also addressed a question on the decreasing number
of Chinese visitors to the U.S. (down from 3.2 million to 3 million).
"Travel has the power to transcend politics," he said. "As
there are trade tensions between our two countries, what makes the U.S.
aspirational has little do with politics and everything to do with the
destination and the experiences you can have here."
He said Brand USA's connection to potential visitors through
its four offices and staying active with its social and digital platforms is
"We're there and we're staying strong as far as our
commitment there," Thompson said.