by PETER CLERKIN
Thomas Sowell noted, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it.” In Washington these days, it seems two of the things taxpayers want most from their government, bipartisanship and common sense, are indeed in short supply. Yet, in late December, Congress abided by Sowell’s first lesson of politics, which is to “disregard the first lesson of economics.” In a fleeting moment of cooperation and pragmatism, the House and Senate passed a spending bill that included the reauthorization of the vital tourism promotion program Brand USA. With the program’s dedicated funding stream set to expire at year’s end, the travel and tourism industry’s long and sustained reauthorization campaign came down to the wire. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and Congress extended Brand USA through 2027.
“America’s hotel owners applaud the congressional reauthorization of Brand USA. This public-private partnership is vitally important to promoting America as a destination to the world. Brand USA helps attract international travelers to our shores by touting the best of what our country offers – and at no cost to taxpayers,” AAHOA President & CEO Cecil Staton said. “Over the past two years, AAHOA’s members initiated thousands of meetings with their lawmakers to help them recognize this program’s importance to job creation and local economies – and we are grateful to our lawmakers for listening. We are also grateful to our partners at the Visit U.S. Coalition for their invaluable leadership in promoting this initiative. America has much to offer the world, and, thanks to Brand USA’s reauthorization, international travelers will continue to hear about the exceptionalism of American destinations,” Staton said.
The reauthorization advocacy campaign came about because of a budgetary glitch that threatened to divert the program’s revenue stream into a general fund, which put millions of dollars in matching funds from the private sector at risk. Brand USA draws its funding from two sources. Fees are collected from travelers using the Visa Waiver Program, which the private sector matches dollar for dollar. This allows Brand USA to operate at no cost to taxpayers.
This public-private partnership boasts a remarkable 25:1 ROI, which helps generate billions of dollars in international tourism for the U.S. and supports tens of thousands of jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry.
Brand USA is crucial to promoting America as a destination for international travelers and enhancing the nation’s reputation abroad. The program is particularly beneficial to hoteliers in communities that do not have large tourism budgets or departments, for it promotes destinations throughout the entire country, not just large metropolitan areas. Destinations such as national parks and historic sites draw thousands of international visitors annually in large part thanks to campaigns by Brand USA.
With the program reauthorized through 2027, AAHOA will monitor its progress as Brand USA looks to increase America’s share of global travelers by showcasing the nation’s great destinations.