. Travel CEOs Urge Action on Reauthorization of Brand USA | Northstar Meetings Group

Travel CEOs Urge Action on Reauthorization of Brand USA

Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, was one of 15 major travel executives who signed a letter urging Congress to reauthorize Brand USA, the entity that markets the U.S. to overseas travelers. Photo Credit:Courtesy of Hilton

Expressing their concern about the decline in America's share of the international travel market, leaders of the largest travel corporations in the U.S. issued a joint statement Wednesday urging Congress and the Trump administration to help halt the slide by reauthorizing Brand USA, the organization that promotes the U.S. globally as a travel destination.

The executives gathered in Washington, D.C., for the second of the U.S. Travel Association's twice-yearly CEO Roundtables. U.S. Travel has long been calling for the reauthorization of Brand USA; Wednesday's action by the leaders in the travel industry adds heft to the cause. Fifteen of the attendees signed the following letter:

"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 percent 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."

Signing the document were Heather McCrory, CEO of Central and North America for Accor; Anré Williams, group president of global merchant and network services for American Express; Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line; Patrick Pacious, president and CEO of Choice Hotels International; Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of Delaware North; Chrissy Taylor, president and CEO of Enterprise Holdings; Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton; Elie Maalouf, CEO of the Americas for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts; Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels; Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International; Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International; Marc Swanson, interim CEO for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel; John Sprouls, executive vice president and CAO of Universal Parks and Resorts, and CEO of Universal Orlando Resort; and Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corp., was not able to attend the roundtable but has added his name to the list of signatories.

Although overseas visitation to the U.S. rose by 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2018, the U.S. underperformed the 21 percent gain seen in global long-haul travel over this time. As a result, the U.S. share of global long-haul travel fell from 13.7 percent in 2015 to 11.7 percent in 2018, as more people traveled internationally, but a lower percentage of them chose to visit the U.S. The resulting losses to the U.S. economy equates to 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in international traveler spending and 120,000 U.S. jobs.

The U.S. market share is forecast to continue this slide, dropping to under 11 percent of the global long-haul travel market  by 2022. Over the next three years, the U.S. could lose 41 million visitors, $180 billion in international-traveler spending and 266,000 jobs.

U.S. Travel says that without the proven success of Brand USA, the market share decline would have been far worse, adding that Brand USA keeps the United States competitive in the global travel market and sends international visitors to destinations beyond the country's gateway cities.

During the Roundtable, the group also met with policymakers including House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), assistant secretary of state Manisha Singh, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).