By KEVIN DERBY
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, went to bat once again for Brand USA.
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.
At the start of August, Bilirakis joined with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., to bring back the “Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act” to renew and fund Brand USA program. The two congressmen showcased the proposal on Friday.
“The travel and tourism industry is a key driver of the American economy,” said Welch. “Promoting the United States as a destination for international visitors will create jobs and boost the economy across the country. Our legislation renews the successful Brand USA international marketing program and locks in a stable funding source that will advance America’s reputation as a world class tourism destination.”
“All Americans benefit from tourism, but Floridians are in a place where the industry is crucial to our economy. Brand USA has already yielded significant benefits for Floridians, and I am proud to co-lead a bipartisan effort to continue the strong trajectory towards one of the most popular travel destinations for workers, families, and globetrotters alike,” said Bilirakis. “Just last month the national unemployment rate fell to a new 50 year low of 3.5. With tourism being the backbone of Florida’s economy, it is only common sense that we should promote job creation in this sector.”
“The American travel community is grateful to Congressman Welch for playing a leading role in reauthorizing Brand USA, which has proven a huge benefit to the U.S. economy by attracting international visitors amid a very competitive global tourism market,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The fact that Brand USA is a bipartisan initiative with a proven economic upside ought to make it a poster child for getting things done in Washington, and we hope the leadership in Congress finds a way to get this measure to a vote this year.”
The bill reauthorizes Brand USA through 2027 and has the program rely on fees from international tourists for funding. Last year, Brand USA reached 1.13 million international tourists who helped add almost $9 billion to the economy.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Homeland Security Committees and has more than 70 cosponsors including Florida Democrat U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Donna Shalala and Darren Soto and Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn and John Rutherford. Over in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has a similar proposal with more than 25 cosponsors.