Bill filed to reauthorize ‘BrandUSA’ tourism campaign

A bill has been filed in the House and Senate to reauthorize a tourism campaign that is credited with attracting 1.1 million visitors to the U.S. and creating $32 million worth of economic activity in 2013. 

The program, known as BrandUSA, is a public-private partnership that is funded in part with money that is collected from fees that are paid by international travelers for visa applications when they visit the U.S.

The legislation to reauthorize the program, which has been dubbed the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act, is intended to renew the BrandUSA program until 2020.

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One of the main sponsors of the bill in the Senate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), said it should be a no-brainer to reauthorize the BrandUSA program, which was first created by Congress in 2010.

“From hotels and diners to recreation and shopping, tourism gives a huge boost to businesses and local economies in communities all across the country,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “More international visitors to the United States means new customers for our businesses, more jobs for our workers, and stronger growth for our economy. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that Brand USA can continue to attract visitors from around the world who will help support businesses and communities all across the United States.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is co-sponsoring the legislation with Klobuchar, agreed.

“Travel and tourism are critical industries for economic growth and private sector job creation in Missouri and nationwide,” Blunt said in a statement. “This common-sense bipartisan bill will enhance and modernize Brand USA so it can continue to promote increased international travel to the U.S. and bring revenue and jobs to communities across the nation."

Tourism groups cheered the introduction of the bill to reauthorize the BrandUSA program on Friday.

“The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act is essential to marketing the United States as a desirable destination for international tourists, conferences and business," American Society of Travel Agents President Zane Kerby said in a statement. "We applaud Rep. [Gus] Bilirakis [R-Fla.] and [Peter] Welch [D-Vt.] and Sen. Klobuchar and Blunt for their bipartisan commitment to generating jobs and economic activity through increased travel. Every inbound international traveler stimulates the U.S. economy.” 

The federal government’s portion of the BrandUSA funding is up to $100 million that comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization fees on visa applications. The rest of the money is raised from the private sector.