Congress weighing how to market U.S. abroad

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Global travel is up, but some worry the U.S. will miss its opportunity to cash in.

Tourists flock to the nation’s capital every day. And visitors are cash cows, pumping money into stores, restaurants, and hotels.

“I came here to visit my family, my sister,” said Anna Baula of Peru, “and [to go] shopping.”

For those selling destinations across the country – international visitors are the real prize. They stay longer and spend more according to the U.S. Travel Association. USTA data shows that while global travel is up, America is getting a smaller piece of the pie.

“You really have to think of it as an arms race of sorts with other countries around the world,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President Jonathan Grella said of trying to draw visitors.

He said the U.S. currently faces headwinds, from the high-value of the dollar to the trade war with China and the president’s travel restrictions on primarily Muslim countries.

“We need to send a message around the world that we may be closed to terror, but we’re open for business,” Grella said. He said the best strategy to do that is investing in Brand USA -- a public-private international marketing campaign.

A report commissioned by Brand USA indicates every dollar the government invests in the effort brings back 27. Last year, the president proposed redirecting the more than $90-million the partnership receives in federal funding to US Customs and Border Protection.

But Grella says he’s confident lawmakers will spare the program – because its benefits are felt in every district. “Now is not the time to pull the plug on Brand [USA], we need it now more than ever,” he said, “[it] helps red states and blue states, urban and rural and everything in between.”))

As Congress debates whether to continue pumping cash into Brand USA, the campaign’s current federal funding is set to expire in 2020.

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