Future of Brand USA

Renewing Brand USA can boost the U.S. economy but will Washington Reauthorize it?

Established by the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, and reauthorized in 2014, Brand USA is the public-private partnership responsible for promoting the U.S. as a travel destination and communicating official visa and entry policies to international leisure and business travelers.

Concerned about the decline in America’s share of the international travel market, leaders of the largest travel corporations in the country issued a rare joint statement with a straightforward prescription for Congress and the administration to halt the slide: reauthorize Brand USA.

“We the leaders of America’s largest travel companies urge our leaders in Washington to immediately address the eroding U.S. share of the global travel market by renewing Brand USA, an organization that is critical to the U.S. effectively competing for lucrative international tourism dollars. Without reauthorization of Brand USA this year, our competitors for global travelers will continue to outperform us and tens of thousands of American jobs will be put at risk.

“While much of the world is more prosperous and more people are traveling than ever before, the percentage of travelers choosing to visit the U.S. continues to decline. If that trend is allowed to continue, it will represent a huge missed opportunity at a time when the U.S. trade balance and sustaining our economic expansion rightly lie at the very heart of our public policy discourse. Travel—in addition to generating $2.5 trillion for the nation’s economy and supporting one in 10 American jobs—is our country’s No. 2 export, posting a trade surplus of $69 billion last year without which the overall trade deficit would have been 11% higher.

“Brand USA—a public-private partnership that promotes the U.S. as a tourism destination at zero cost to the U.S. taxpayer—is a proven program that is essential to maintaining a level playing field in the ultra-competitive international travel market. Not only is Brand USA our country’s only answer to the robust marketing efforts of our tourism rivals, but its explicit mission is to market the entirety of the U.S., especially lesser-known destinations that do not necessarily have the means to promote themselves abroad.

“Our industry has always stood for creating prosperity for Americans in every corner of the country, and we stand ready to work with the Trump administration and Congress in pursuit of those shared goals.”

Heather McCrory, Accor – Anré Williams, American Express – Christine Duffy, Carnival Cruise Line – Patrick Pacious, Choice Hotels International – Jeremy Jacobs, Delaware North – Chrissy Taylor, Enterprise Holdings – Chris Nassetta, Hilton – Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt Hotels Corporation – Elie Maalouf, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHG) – Jonathan Tisch, Loews Hotels & Co. – Arne Sorenson, Marriott International – Jim Murren, MGM Resorts International – Marc Swanson, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment – Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association – John Sprouls, Universal Parks & Resorts – Geoff Ballotti, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

Although the volume of overseas visitation to the U.S. rose a modest 3.1% from 2015 to 2018, the U.S. underperformed the 21% gain in global long-haul travel during this time. As a result, the U.S. share of global long-haul travel fell from 13.7% in 2015 to 11.7% in 2018. That means that while more people are traveling internationally around the world, a lower percentage of them are choosing to visit the U.S.

That decline in market share represents losses to the U.S. economy of 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in international traveler spending, and 120,000 U.S. jobs.

Moreover, U.S. travel market share is forecast to continue its slide, dropping to under 11% by 2022. That would mean a further economic hit of 41 million visitors, $180 billion in international traveler spending and 266,000 jobs over the next three years.

Without the proven success of Brand USA, the market share decline would have been far worse. Brand USA keeps the United States competitive in the global travel market and sends international visitors to destinations beyond the gateway cities—ensuring all regions of the U.S. reap the economic and employment benefits directly associated with international visitation.

BrandUSA 2019 Final Economy

The statement was released following U.S. Travel’s biannual CEO Roundtable event on Wednesday, where executives from many of the country’s largest and most recognizable travel brands gathered just steps from the U.S. Capitol at the National Museum of the American Indian to discuss issues of importance to the travel industry. In addition to U.S. travel market share and the renewal of Brand USA, other topics the group discussed included the importance of passing the USMCA trade agreement and the October 1, 2020 deadline for flying with REAL ID-compliant identification.

The group met throughout the day with policymakers including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY), and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

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