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Upton Committee Advances Bill to Boost Local Tourism, Jobs

Travel and tourism industry is vital to Southwest Michigan jobs and economy

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WASHINGTON, DC, July 15, 2014 | Lynn Turner / Nick Culp (269-385-0039 / 202-225-3761) | comments
Speaking last week at a Michigan Tourism Roundtable discussion in South Haven, Mich., House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, underscored the importance of the travel and tourism sector to Southwest Michigan’s economy and pointed to the tremendous potential to grow this industry by attracting more visitors from overseas.

Today, Upton’s Committee approved H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014, to reauthorize Brand USA, which is dedicated to increasing inbound international travel to the United States. The bill passed by voice vote and now awaits consideration before the full House of Representatives.

“The tourism industry brings roughly a billion dollars to Southwest Michigan every year and supports thousands of local jobs. We must do what it takes to ensure that this major pillar of our economy continues to thrive,” said Upton.

“Domestic travelers account for the largest portion of travel spending in the United States, but when you consider that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live overseas, you realize the tremendous potential to further grow our travel and tourism industry. Extending Brand USA will help market the United States as a world-class destination, and continue to attract visitors and economic growth to local communities here in Michigan.”

Today’s legislation was praised by Travel Michigan, which took part in last week’s South Haven roundtable. Travel Michigan is a part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the state’s marketing arm and business development advocate.

“Our partnership with Brand USA allows Michigan and our local communities an affordable way to stand out and be noticed,” said Dave Lorenz of Travel Michigan. “Their innovative marketing techniques give us a chance to enhance our image as a world-class destination with friendly people, authentic destinations and awe-inspiring natural surroundings.”

Tourists in the six counties (Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren) that make up the Sixth Congressional District in 2012 spent $977.8 million, which supported 9,323 jobs and a $203.2 million payroll, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Numbers for the state were $16.8 billion for the same year, supporting 144,400 jobs with a $3.8 billion payroll. 

Launched in 2010 under the Travel Promotion Act (TPA), Brand USA is a non-profit, private-public partnership that assists in financing an international advertising campaign for the United States as a travel destination. Unlike other major travel destinations, the United States’ campaign effort is co-funded by international visitors and contributions from the private sector, not by the taxpayers. Under Brand USA, a $10 fee is assessed once every two years on visa-free international visitors who enter the United States under the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This federal contribution is capped at $100 million a year and requires a matching contribution from the U.S. tourism industry.

Under current law, TPA and Brand USA will expire on September 30, 2015. H.R. 4450 would extend these efforts through September 30, 2020.
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