On this Fourth of July week, let’s take a moment to think about the value of having international travelers visit the United States to experience for themselves the beauty of our land, the charm of our communities and the kindness of our people. Increased understanding among people and cultures leads to better relations and reduced hostilities between nations. It’s one of the benefits of travel that the tourism industry doesn’t talk about a lot because it’s very difficult to quantify. It’s significant, nonetheless. The other and more obvious benefit is the economic impact right here in the USA. Travelers account for $113 billion in tax receipts each year and pay for 7.4 million jobs. Imagine how even a modest increase of a percentage or two could create more jobs, more local taxes and more prosperity.
It was momentous when the Travel Promotion Act was signed in 2010. It meant that for the first time ever the United States was going to promote itself as a destination for international travelers. Many other nations have done so for decades. Consider memorable campaigns from Australia, Bahamas, India and Ireland. The act established a public/private entity called the Corporation for Travel Promotion, which does business as Brand USA, to oversee all the advertising and marketing work. They got off to a great start by forming an impressive board of directors and securing some mega partners like Disney, Marriott, Best Western and VISIT FLORIDA. They launched a website and then unveiled some TV spots using a catchy song performed by Roseanne Cash.
The U.S. Congress spends a lot of our money on expenditures that yield nothing in return (like $227 billion on interest on our debt – that’s money down a rat hole). With Brand USA they finally stumbled across a program that is truly an investment that will generate economic activity. Why, then, should it come as no surprise that some meddlesome senators feel the need to investigate the way Brand USA is spending its money? Something is wrong with this picture. According to the Brand USA website, at least half of this public/private partnership’s budget comes from private sector investment. The remainder will come from a fee charged to international visitors. The American taxpayer is not paying anything. Why the need to investigate? It might be about power and control. It might be about getting their hands on those fees that international visitors are charged. Either way, it’s a disturbing development. Let Brand USA work for the American economy.