Brand USA facing an uncertain future

A topic for discussion during the 2014 NTA Congressional Travel Fly-in, June 23-25

As the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organization, the mission of Brand USA, Washington, D.C., is to encourage more international travelers to visit the United States and to grow America’s share of the global travel market.

Brand USA works to position the United States as a compelling destination for international travelers, and promote their refreshed understanding of this country through its limitless destinations and attractions. It says the focus of its programs and platforms  is to increase awareness and enhance the image of the United States, adding that its integrated marketing and communications strategy delivers the highest possible return for the United States — job creation, GDP and export growth — and increased federal tax revenues.

NTA Public Affairs Advocate Steve Richer
NTA Public Affairs Advocate Steve Richer

Meanwhile, an April press release from the National Tour Association (NTA), Lexington, KY, says its members are counting on Brand USA to keep marketing the United States as a travel destination, but some members of the U.S. Congress are hoping to terminate the program.

The release notes that following a year in which Brand USA generated 1.1 million visitors who would not have traveled to the United States without the agency’s marketing efforts, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the budget committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, released a proposed budget that does not include funding for Brand USA.

Last year, NTA was a leading advocate for the travel and tourism industry during the U.S. government’s partial shutdown. The closure of national parks and other attractions was disastrous for Chinese travelers visiting the United States. Following two weeks of shutdown-related financial loss suffered by NTA members, the association’s then-president Lisa Simon testified at a Congressional hearing about the closures.

In the same proposal, Ryan’s budget calls for the U.S. Department of Transportation to cut spending on road and transit projects. According to NTA, the recommended reduction in the department’s Highway Trust Fund comes at a time when the association and other leaders in the travel industry are calling for increased funding for the nation’s infrastructure.

NTA Public Affairs Advocate Steve Richer says this budget would take travelers—and the U.S. economy—in the wrong direction.

“To cut off a successful marketing program as well as much-needed funds for bridge repairs and safe, efficient highways makes no sense,” Richer said in a statement.

“The NTA is advocating for reauthorization of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, the funding vehicle for Brand USA,” he said. “Brand USA has achieved a fantastic ROI — close to 50 to 1 — in only four years of existence. The U.S has reversed some negative travel trends in countries where Brand USA is promoting travel to this country.”

He adds that it is counterintuitive to axe a program that brings so much revenue and provides so many jobs.

These topics will certainly be on the table when NTA members gather in Washington, D.C., in June to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill and discuss key issues that affect the tourism industry. The 2014 Congressional Travel Fly-in will be held June 23 to 25.