WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion announces a hearing titled Tourism in America: Moving Our Economy Forward.
The hearing will focus primarily on the travel industry’s impact on the U.S. economy. At a time when unemployment remains stubbornly high, increased overseas visitation presents one opportunity to improve the country’s economic outlook. Federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the State Department, are working closely with Brand USA, Inc. (formerly known as Corporation for Travel Promotion) to attract and welcome increased international visitors.
The first panel of the hearing will discuss the steps the federal government is taking to implement the Travel Promotion Act. The second panel will hear from the private sector on the importance of travel and tourism to the U.S. economy and the recent unveiling of Brand USA, Inc. to market America. Witnesses on this panel will discuss how international travel to the U.S. impacts their businesses and the ways in which the government and private sector can partner to increase foreign visitation.
Please note the hearing will also be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Refresh the Commerce Committee homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to view the webcast.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for webcast hearings, should contact Collenne Wider at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thanks to all of our witnesses for participating in this important discussion about travel and how it affects our economy. I want to start by complimenting Senator Klobuchar for her focus on this issue. The timing couldn’t be better. With the launch of Brand USA, a public-private partnership that is marketing travel to America, our country will finally start aggressively competing for international travelers. The goal is to create and support jobs that will boost the U.S. economy at a time when our country so desperately needs visitors and the revenue they bring. This will result in more international travelers coming to places like West Virginia and Minnesota and everywhere in between.
Everyone here knows firsthand, that travel and tourism are critical to our economy. Hard working Americans, whether in hotels, restaurants and shops, or as our river guides or tour operators, all depend on a thriving travel industry. Tourists contribute $750 billion a year to our economy, and provide jobs for approximately one in nine Americans. That’s why we’re here today, to continue supporting the travel industry. In addition to new job opportunities and a stronger economy, bringing in overseas visitors gives us a chance to showcase our great nation.
As many people in the D.C. area know, West Virginia has long been known as a “wild and wonderful” destination. Places like Cooper’s Rock State Forest or Babcock State Park offer breathtaking views of fall foliage. And, when that first big snow falls, thousands flock to our ski runs. West Virginia’s economy relies on tourism. 44,000 jobs in our state depend on it and the industry contributes $4 billion a year to the state economy.
Part of the reason so many people visit West Virginia is that they’ve seen the advertising campaigns: “Where is Your West Virginia” and “Experience West Virginia.” The Division of Tourism has promoted West Virginia for years—it’s something that I championed as Governor, and that push continues today. Our advertisements are everywhere from D.C. metro stations to social networking sites because we realize how much is at stake.
This is a good lesson for Brand USA. As it markets America, it should take note of what works elsewhere. West Virginia’s marketing campaign constantly evolves to reach more people and to make an impact on them in a meaningful way. Brand USA will need to evolve as well. Many of our competitor countries already have sophisticated marketing campaigns in place and will undoubtedly react to where and how Brand USA chooses to invest. The competition that goes on between countries is similar to the competition that goes on between states every day. Before large amounts of money are spent to reinvent the wheel, I would expect Brand USA to seek the advice of states with successful tourism promotion experience.
As with any global initiative, the eyes of the world are upon us, and it’s important that we succeed in making America an attractive destination to travelers everywhere. At a time when money is tight for most people, I hope we are creative and tactical in promoting West Virginia and America as the wonderfully diverse travel destinations they are.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today on this subject, and I’d like to thank them again for joining today’s discussion.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Ken HyattDeputy Assistant for ServicesU.S. Department of Commerce
Mr. David T. DonahueDeputy Assistant Secretary, Visa ServicesU.S. Department of State
Witness Panel 2
Mr. James P. EvansChief Executive OfficerBrand USA, Inc.
Mr. John F. EdmanDirectorExplore Minnesota Tourism
Mr. Jonathan ZukVice ChairmanReceptive Services Association of America
Mr. Jonathan TischCo-chair of the Board, Loews CorporationChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Loews Hotels