Gus Bilirakis Continues the Fight for Tourism on Capitol Hill, Including Brand USA

By KEVIN DERBY Sunshine State News

Gus Bilirakis

Gus Bilirakis

This week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., one of the co-chairman of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, continued his fight for support for tourism, including Brand USA. 

Bilirakis held a round table event in Wesley Chapel on Thursday and he stressed the important role tourism plays to the Sunshine State’s economy. 

“We all benefit when tourism is thriving,” Bilirakis said this week. “Increased tourism means less tax burden, more jobs, and a strengthened economy.   As co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, I strive to support growth of this sector in Florida and around the country.”

“Travel is one of the largest industries in the United States, employing 15.7 million Americans nationwide, and generating $2.5 trillion in economic output last year,” the congressman’s office noted. “Of that amount, international travel imports accounted for $186 billion.

“Florida’s economy is heavily impacted by travel and tourism, where travelers spent $98.6 billion in the state in 2017. Tourism also created 921,020 jobs in Florida that same year. It is estimated that without these jobs, Florida’s unemployment rate would have skyrocketed from the low rate of 4.1 percent to a whopping 13.2 percent,” the congressman’s office added. 

In the meantime, Bilirakis is continuing his efforts to back bills which, he insists, will expand tourism, including reauthorizing Brand USA which is set to expire in 2020. 

Established in 1979, the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus works to promote domestic and international tourism, including supporting Brand USA, a public-private partnership which works to bring visitors from across the globe to visit the United States. A similar caucus was launched in the Senate back in 2011. Bilirakis took over as a co-chairman of it six years ago. 

Bilirakis doubled down on his support of Brand USA, insisting “this highly successful program has generated $8.9 billion in economic impact, all while operating at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

Back in October, Bilirakis started the push to reauthorize Brand USA, an effort he successfully led back in 2014. Bilirakis gathered more than 70 colleagues to call on Congress to renew Brand USA and stress its importance. The caucus has more than 75 members including Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Frederica Wilson from Florida.

Bilirakis was first elected to Congress in 2006.