Brand USA Ready to Welcome Restless Global Travelers Ahead of Funding Increase

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On the eve of 2020, it looked like Congress would let Brand USA’s funding mechanism expire and the United States could become the number one destination in the world without an agency to market its overseas destinations. But by the 11th hour, attributed to a politically charged Trump year, Brand USA saw its funding mechanism renewed for seven years until 2027, a longer period than previous five-year periods.

Sadly, Covid has hit and brought Brand USA’s funding model to its knees, as 50% of its revenue comes from a portion of the visa waiver program fees from 39 countries, with a requirement that 50% be contributions private sector equivalents. The drop in international visitors means fee collection this year is expected to hit $ 10 million from an average of $ 110 million per year, according to the US Travel Association (USTA).

Eighteen months later, however, the crisis has not hurt bipartisan support for Brand USA. He spearheaded a new bill – the Restore Brand USA Act – providing a one-time allocation of $ 250 million of surplus funds for Brand USA to prepare for the recovery of international tourism in 2022. The bill, which is Born from advocacy efforts by the Travel and Tourism Advisory Council of the Department of Commerce and USTA, has been passed by the Senate so far.

“What this bill seeks to do is take some of the funds that are sort of already in a jar, if you will, that were paid by international travelers and give that money back – So there has been a greater collection of fees beyond that $ 100 million that the program has been capped, and so, that money is there, and so we are looking to use that money for that next year, we can fund Brand USA, ”said Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs for the US Travel Association, which champions the USA brand.

It’s a decision that shows the government’s increased understanding of the profound economic impact of the United States’ travel bans on Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom – costing the U.S. economy 1.5 billion dollars every week or enough to fund 10,000 American jobs, according to the US Travel Association – and Brand USA’s role in reclaiming the country’s second export when borders reopen.

There is great optimism that the bill will go ahead and could also be included in the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Bill of 2021, broader tourism legislation underway. development of the policies and investments needed to make travel to the United States recover from the pandemic.

“Ideally, the perfect scenario is for the House version of the bill to look like the Senate bill and just sit there waiting for a turn,” said Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA. “He would probably never be raised on his own; it would usually be attached to another law that needs to be passed. You know, the only way to do that is to have bipartisan support. We have high hopes and it would be much needed and much appreciated.

In a recent hearing in September, seeking additional industry comment on the Omnibus Bill, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion reiterated its interest in doing so. advance emergency funding for Brand USA as part of the larger effort to boost the future of tourism in the United States and recover its revenues.

“As you spoke it made me realize that timing is important, as people start to travel again we want them to remember to come to our country, where they spend on average how much, Mrs. Barnes? Senator Klobuchar asked Barnes of the USTA, who answered $ 4,000 per international visitor.

“Obviously, there is still work to be done, in terms of inclusion in a law to be passed for example,” said Barnes of the USTA. “But there is an internal bill that is also gaining in co-sponsorship and so we are optimistic that this could be added to something before the end of this year to provide Brand USA with the funding that is desperately needed to make it happen. ensure they can do their job of attracting international visitors to the United States once the borders reopen more widely in November. ”

Reopening internationally means fully learning to live with the pandemic

The United States is expected to reopen to fully vaccinated international travelers starting November 1, 2021, but Thompson of Brand USA sees returning international visitors to be a gradual process as governments confirm all applicable protocols.

“I always said that it would never happen, that it would not be a whole and then everything. Even by November, we’re going to get additional information and additional protocols in regards to which markets will open first, and it’s still a cross-border geopolitical conversation between us and each government in each respective country. Thompson said, adding that the United States has finally realized that the pandemic is going nowhere and has to live with it.

“I think that was a major statement from our country that this is how our country chooses to live with the pandemic when it comes to welcoming visitors from outside our borders, and it was a major step. And I hope I could set a standard for what the rest of the world would do too.

While travel entry protocols have yet to be clarified and will be revealed over the next few weeks, that hasn’t stopped Brand USA from preparing for what it says is a major pent-up global demand for America. The agency’s ongoing online marketing activities and its downturn digitization, including a new online B2B marketplace, GoUSA TV and a new United Stories campaign, have all been funded from reserves that Brand USA initially had. incorporated in 2019 in anticipation of potentially not having its funding renewed over time.

“We had good reserves so we were ready and we invested in the global market platform. And then we reduced; we’ve kept all of our office relationships around the world in place, we’ve reduced terms, so we’ve literally backed off and waited, and so we’re good to go, ”said Thompson. “We have a plan for each market, we have kept our market sentiment research alive.”

US to beat all recovery projections once borders reopen

As the primary body charged with stimulating tourism demand in the United States, Thompson is confident that the power of the American brand and consumer interest in it will continue to obscure any ongoing news cycle of 24 or more. 48 hours focused on US states with laws prohibiting vaccination warrants. for businesses, like Florida and Texas.

“We have the privilege of promoting these three letters which are possibly the most powerful brand in the world and we often say that it is shaped every day by so many things beyond our control,” said Thompson. “What makes the United States ambitious as a travel destination really hasn’t changed – nothing about it, the pop culture that defines it is what makes the United States the United States. “

Thompson said demand was not the issue and the goal was to regain consumer confidence and show that the United States can deliver the experience it wants to deliver is going to be shaped by how each city ​​and every state in the country as a whole handles mail. pandemic situation.

The booming domestic tourism economy was the best thing that could have happened, Thompson added. “I think this is the best example of our exit and what we are asking them to join now that the borders are open; that was a big part of our ability to gain their trust, and it was never a demand issue.

Brand USA will be critical in bringing back the necessary inbound international travel, USTA’s Barnes said. “We have really emphasized that this emergency funding will be essential to an overall economic recovery for the industry and the United States. And so we’re optimistic about the way forward here given the bipartisan support shown in the House and Senate. “

Referring to expert projections that international tourism will return to 2019 levels in 2023 for Canada, Mexico and through 2025 for long-haul markets, Thompson said he had not seen any s ‘apply to the US travel market.

“I think we’ll beat every one of those projections, once the borders open. “


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