It’s been about 10 years since the U.S. Travel Association wrapped up the most significant lobbying effort of the organization’s history and got the U.S. Congress to passed legislation that created the Corporation for Travel Promotion (DBA Brand USA). After it did so and the bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama, the association has had to stave off attempts to deauthorize the agency. A little more less five years ago, in December 2014, US Travel was able to persuade Congress to reauthorize the organization for six years.
And now they’re at it again. The current authorization for Brand USA expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2020, on Sept. 30, 2021. The government relations staff of US Travel has already been active on Capitol Hill. Bills have already been in the House and Senate to extend the life of Brand USA for another six years—H.R. 3851 in the House and S. 2203 in the Senate. It helps to have companion versions in both Houses, just in case the legislative process bogs down in one chamber; as such, US Travel can engineer the process better with bills in each chamber. And both bills have bipartisan backing.
But U.S. Travel said in a recent posting, “more work remains to be done and we are calling on our membership and the travel industry to act now.” It points to three ways to get involved:
- Send an Action Alert to your representative and your senator encouraging them to co-sponsor H.R. 3851 or S. 2203, demonstrate the importance of Brand USA to their committee leadership, and renew Brand USA this year.
- Write an op-ed for your local newspaper touting the benefits Brand USA delivers to your community. Find examples below and reference our sample op-ed as you draft yours.
- Engage on social media using the hashtag #RenewBrandUSA to both encourage your member(s) of Congress and join the conversation on the importance of this program. Our social media guide can get you started.
- If you have plans to meet with your member of Congress, reference U.S. Travel talking points for key messages, stats and asks.
Here is a link to the House bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3851
Here is a link to the Senate bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2203
If you want to contact your U.S. Representative, here is a directory of contact information: https://www.house.gov/representatives.
And if you want to contact your U.S. Senator, use this link: https://www.senate.gov/senators/index.htm
Also, here is a general number for contacting both the House and Senate: 202-224-3121.
The Life of Brand USA—A Timeline
—2009: Bills are introduced in both the House and Senate that would create a national Corporation for Travel Promotion a public-private partnership tasked with promoting tourism in the United States.
—The House passed its version (H.R. 2935) by a voice vote March 31, 2009.
—The Senate passed its version (S. 1023) on Sept. 9, 2009 by a vote. of 79 -19.
—Both houses later approved some changes in language, and the bill was approved by both Houses on Feb. 25, 2009. A week later, it was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
—The Corporation for Travel Promotion is to be governed by a 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The composition of the board is to reflect the different sectors of the U.S. travel and tourism industry.
—How is Brand USA funded? Instead of paying visa fees, tourists from Visa Waiver countries pay a $14 fee to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ETSA). Brand USA receives $10 from this fee, with the remaining $4 going to the Department of Homeland Security.
—Brand USA qualifies for up to $100 million per year in these federal matching funds (from the private sector) through the reauthorization.
—May 2011, Jim Evans, a long-time executive in the hotel industry (and former president and CEO of Best Western International), is named as first president and CEO of the Corporation for Travel Promotion. He resigns in June 2012.
—The first meeting of the first board convened in January 2011.
—November 2011. The Corporation for Travel Promotion announces that it will being doing business as Brand USA.
—In September 2012, Christopher Thompson is named president and CEO of Brand USA. He joins the organization from his post as president and CEO of Visit Florida.
—In a magnificent case of timing its lobbying, U.S. Travel is able to get the Senate to incorporate the language of a House bill (similar to a version it had approved) into a measure of its own. The Senate never acted on the bill per se, but the language doing so was deftly and quietly dropped into a measure that funded the U.S. Capitol police as part of the Omnibus Government Appropriations in a bill that was approved by the Senate late Saturday, December 13, 2014—the last day of the 113th Congress. It extended the life of through the end of Fiscal Year 2021 (Sept. 30, 2021). Which is what we are approaching now.