Travel and tourism is an underrated contributor to the Wyoming economy, supporting 32,000-plus jobs and $3.8 billion in economic activity. Our region is a prime example of how the travel industry can …
Travel and tourism is an underrated contributor to the Wyoming economy, supporting 32,000-plus jobs and $3.8 billion in economic activity. Our region is a prime example of how the travel industry can be a top economic performer in any corner of the country — tourism reaches far beyond cities like Los Angeles and New York, and deep into the heartland of America, and to the highest peaks of the Mountain West. But success in the tourism industry only comes with help.
Brand USA, the public-private partnership tasked with promoting the United States to international travelers, is set to expire in 2020. Brand USA not only works for America, Brand USA works for Wyoming — and it is crucial that Congress secure its long-term reauthorization. Overseas visitors spend an average of $4,200 per person, per trip, when they visit the USA. Brand USA’s mission is to promote America beyond the “gateway” cities (think New York, Seattle, LA and San Francisco), ensuring all pockets of America benefit from the economic rewards of international visitation.
Just last month, I was in London on a sales mission sponsored by Brand USA. I met with 40 tour operators and travel agents, hosted 20 journalists from the UK media and attended six seminars on selling to the UK; this single event, which Sheridan Travel & Tourism could not have arranged or afforded to attend without the assistance of Brand USA, will result in millions of dollars in spending in Sheridan County in 2020 (and beyond). Cooperative marketing initiatives offered by Brand USA also allow Sheridan Travel & Tourism, and other local tourism offices across the state, to reach far broader audiences than we could ever dream of reaching on our own. Specialized media and advertising campaigns, trade show programs, and other initiatives are integral to our success.
None of us individually have the finances or networks to create the type of targeted campaigns created by Brand USA. Quite simply, Brand USA takes us to places where we cannot go on our own.
Travel is America’s second-largest industry export, generating a trade surplus last year of $69 billion — without which the overall national trade deficit would have been 11 percent higher. Here in Wyoming, travel is the largest private sector employer and one of the leading contributors to sales and use tax. In Sheridan County, travel and tourism spending impacts our local economy with more than $115 million each year.
Best of all? Brand USA does all its important work at zero cost to the American taxpayer, relying instead on fees paid by ESTA-approved travelers to the U.S., plus matching contributions from the private sector. Some of our biggest rivals for international visitors heavily fund their tourism promotion budgets using taxpayer dollars. Allowing Brand USA to lapse would leave the U.S. severely outmatched in the competition for international visitor dollars and would have devastating effects on destinations like Wyoming.
There is broad private-sector support for Brand USA in all 50 states, with almost 600 businesses and travel organizations signing a letter last year in support of the program’s reauthorization. There is growing bi-partisan support in Congress and we urge Wyoming’s Congressional delegation to join in this effort. This program is a prime example of smart policymaking, with a proven track record and an impressive return on investment without cost to U.S. taxpayers.
It is crucial that Congress recognize travel and tourism’s value to the American economy, and to Wyoming, and reauthorize Brand USA this year.
(Shawn Parker is the president of the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition and the executive director of Sheridan Travel & Tourism.)