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U.S. Inbound Tour Operators Urge Continued Funding for Brand USA

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

iita logoIn response to President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, which recommends zero appropriations for the federal matching funds needed to operate Brand USA, the International Inbound Travel Association urges Congress to continue funding for Brand USA, the tourism marketing organization for the United States.

Brand USA is funded by an annual match of $100 million from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization fees paid by international visitors traveling to the United States from visa waiver countries, provided Brand USA collects an equal amount or more from the travel industry. No federal taxes are used to fund the program.

"Since the establishment of Brand USA through the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, the United States has seen dramatic increases in arriving visitors from all key markets," said Lisa Simon, IITA Executive Director. "We are particularly pleased that Brand USA has leveraged its funding to help grow international inbound business to every corner of the United States, including all states and territories.

“This ill-advised zeroing out of this important organization, which has demonstratively grown jobs, trade revenue and economic impact for the United States, will be our major focus until it has been reversed by both houses of Congress and funding restored in the FY18 federal budget," Simon noted.

Gary Schluter, General Manager of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, is both the Chairman of IITA and a member of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, thereby deeply involved in all national policy issues affecting inbound tourism.

"The mandate for Brand USA under the Travel Promotion Act is two-fold,” Schluter observed. “First and most obviously is the promotion of the United States as the world's most desirable travel destination. Second, however, is the requirement that Brand USA communicate U.S. entry policies and assist international visitors with the requirements and procedures to visit the United States.

"At a time when two proposed travel bans to curtail visitation from several named countries and anecdotal reports of more restrictive practices on acquiring U.S. visas are part of the challenge to grow inbound tourism, our operators rely on the support of Brand USA. Without its presence in the market, global efforts to explain visa policies and procedures, as well as marketing the United States, will fall back on the efforts of individual destinations and key private sector companies, such as our inbound operators, who by their narrower focus and with much more limited resources, will diminish the marketing of America bound to reduce US world market share."

IITA will work diligently as the voice of the inbound tour operators who have the most direct contact with international visitors to ensure the continued funding of Brand USA.

“We will fight for Brand USA until it is fully refunded for 2018,” Schluter said.

IITA is the International Inbound Travel Association – the only professional association devoted exclusively to the professional advancement and promotion of the U.S. inbound travel industry. IITA members include inbound operators, destinations and suppliers (lodging companies, transportation, attractions, restaurants, etc.) from across the country.

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