ICYMI: Gus Bilirakis: Boosting Florida's economy through Brand USA
Florida — the Sunshine State — is one of America’s best destinations for tourists. Florida’s Twelfth Congressional District — which I have the distinct pleasure of representing — is no different. From the growing Sunwest Harbourtowne in Hudson and sponge diving in Tarpon Springs, to the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor and the famous BMX track in Oldsmar, my district and the Tampa Bay area at large boast significant tourism destinations.
Tourism and travel are vital to our economy, employing over 1 million Floridians. On Nov. 17, an editorial published in The Tampa Tribune underscored that fact (“Boosts from record tourism,” Our Views).
Visit Tampa Bay is the “promotion engine” to draw visitors to the Tampa Bay area. Visit Tampa Bay reports that “hotel revenues in Hillsborough County climbed to $524 million in fiscal year 2014, a 13 percent jump over the previous year.”
Visit Florida, Florida’s version of Visit Tampa Bay, boasts similar successes. From January-July 2013 to January-July 2014, travel and tourism expenditures increased by over 7 percent, to the tune of $49.3 billion.
These programs are clearly working, on the state and local level.
I am the only Florida member of Congress on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, which oversees travel and tourism. I am in a unique position to boost travel and tourism to Florida. The national version of Visit Florida is the Corporation for Travel Promotion, better known as Brand USA.
Brand USA is a public-private partnership that serves as the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organization. The organization is charged with growing America’s share of the global travel market. Through a combination of voluntary private sector contributions and a nominal fee on foreign visitors, Brand USA’s activities are aimed at influencing increased global visitation to and spending in the United States, without a cost to U.S. taxpayers. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects this bill to cut the deficit by $264 million over 10 years.
Brand USA’s efforts were responsible for bringing over 1 million visitors to America last year – visitors who would not have traveled here without the marketing efforts of Brand USA. These tourists spent $3.4 billion.
The bottom line is that Brand USA works, just like Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Florida. That is why I introduced the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act. My legislation extends Brand USA through 2020, adding numerous accountability measures.
Florida heavily relies on tourism and travel, and the Sunshine State has much to offer visitors. Through public-private partnerships and international tourism, we can welcome visitors to our country and, more particularly, to our beautiful state. My legislation will help the U.S. economy flourish and will show the world why Florida is a special place to visit.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, represents the 12th Congressional District, which includes all of Pasco County and northern parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
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