Skift Take

Amid a softening forecast for domestic travel within the United States and red tape in Washington, D.C., Brand USA still needs a legislative path forward — and time is running out.

For some time now, international travel to the United States has been in a state of contraction. According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, little has changed in that respect.

The U.S.’ market share of global long-haul travel is projected to continue declining, down from a high of 13.7 percent in 2015 to a projected 10.4 percent in 2023. If the decline continues as projected between now and 2023, it will cost the U.S. economy $78 billion in visitor spending and 130,000 American jobs, according to projections.

The report also detected another worrying sign: The forecasted growth in domestic travel in 2020 is set to soften, growing by 1.4 percent next year, compared to 1.7 percent in 2019; it’s the slowest pace in four years. The slowing in domestic travel growth — usually quite stable in its growth trajectory — adds to fears about an economic downturn on the horizon. It also points to the need for further strengthening on the international side of the tourism equation, officials said.

U.S. Travel has been lobbying congress to reauthorize Brand USA — the nation’s destination marketer, which is funded through a public-private partnership at no cost to the taxpayer — since its funding was diverted in 2018. While its funding doesn’t officially end until September 2020, if the fight for reauthorization drags into next year, it will affect the ability of the program to function as normal.

As U.S. Travel’s Tori Barnes told Skift last month, “It needs certainty to go forward.”

The clock is ticking. On Nov. 20, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill to reauthorize Brand USA. But the legislation still needs to be attached to a piece of “must-pass” bill to get a vote in the full House, before moving onto the Senate.

While the House was meant to adjourn at the end of this week, Congress looks likely to stay in D.C. until Dec. 20 for matters including the impeachment hearings and avoiding another government shutdown. The legislative path that Congress chooses to avert such a shutdown may well be a factor in whether or not the funding for Brand USA gets renewed.


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Tags: brand usa, congress, government shutdown, US Travel Association

Photo credit: The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Domestic travel in 2020 is set to soften, growing by 1.4 percent next year, compared to 1.7 percent in 2019, and the slowest pace in four years. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

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