CEOs Call on Washington to Reauthorize Brand USA

Capitol - U.S. Congress

Washington – Concerned about the decline in America’s share of the international travel market, leaders of the largest travel corporations in the country issued a rare joint statement with a straightforward prescription for Congress and the administration to halt the slide: reauthorize Brand USA—the organization tasked with promoting the United States globally as a travel destination. The joint statement says:

“We, the leaders of America’s largest travel companies, urge our leaders in Washington to immediately address the eroding U.S. share of the global travel market by renewing Brand USA, an organization that is critical to the United States, to effectively compete for lucrative international tourism dollars. Without reauthorization of Brand USA this year, our competitors for global travelers will continue to outperform us and tens of thousands of American jobs will be put at risk.

“While much of the world is more prosperous and more people are traveling than ever before, the percentage of travelers choosing to visit the United States continues to decline. If that trend is allowed to continue, it will represent a huge missed opportunity at a time when the U.S. trade balance and sustaining our economic expansion rightly lie at the very heart of our public policy discourse. Travel—in addition to generating $2.5 trillion for the nation’s economy and supporting one in 10 American jobs—is our country’s No. 2 export, posting a trade surplus of $69 billion last year without which the overall trade deficit would have been 11 percent higher.

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“Brand USA—a public-private partnership that promotes the United States as a tourism destination at zero cost to the U.S. taxpayer—is a proven program that is essential to maintaining a level playing field in the ultra-competitive international travel market. Not only is Brand USA our country’s only answer to the robust marketing efforts of our tourism rivals, but its explicit mission is to market the entirety of the United States, especially lesser-known destinations that do not necessarily have the means to promote themselves abroad.

“Our industry has always stood for creating prosperity for Americans in every corner of the country, and we stand ready to work with the Trump administration and Congress in pursuit of those shared goals.”

Although the volume of overseas visitation to the United States rose a modest 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2018, the United States underperformed the 21 percent gain in global long-haul travel during this time. As a result, the U.S. share of global long-haul travel fell from 13.7 percent in 2015 to 11.7 percent in 2018. That means that while more people are traveling internationally around the world, a lower percentage of them are choosing to visit the United States.

That decline in market share represents losses to the U.S. economy of 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in international traveler spending, and 120,000 U.S. jobs.

Moreover, U.S. travel market share is forecast to continue its slide, dropping to under 11 percent by 2022. That would mean a further economic hit of 41 million visitors, $180 billion in international traveler spending, and 266,000 jobs over the next three years.

Without the proven success of Brand USA, the market share decline would have been far worse. Brand USA keeps the United States competitive in the global travel market and sends international visitors to destinations beyond the gateway cities—ensuring all regions of the United States reap the economic and employment benefits directly associated with international visitation.

The statement was released following U.S. Travel’s biannual CEO Roundtable event on Wednesday, where executives from many of the country’s largest and most recognizable travel brands gathered just steps from the U.S. Capitol at the National Museum of the American Indian to discuss issues of importance to the travel industry. In addition to U.S. travel market share and the renewal of Brand USA, other topics the group discussed included the importance of passing the USMCA trade agreement and the October 1, 2020, deadline for flying with REAL ID-compliant identification.

The group met throughout the day with policymakers including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY), and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).