Sometimes conservative wins come in small packages. But a win is a win. That’s what happened this past week in the House of Representatives when a subcommittee added reforms to legislation designed to encourage tourism into the United States.
There is little debate that tourism is a major job and wealth creator for the country and you don’t have to live in a place like Hawaii to see the benefits. 70 million international travelers visited the United States last year alone. They spent over $180 billion in goods and services supporting over two million jobs in the United States. Tourists’ money is good for America.
We are, of course, not the only destination for world travelers. There is fierce competition among nations most of who spend heavily to encourage tourists to spend their travel dollars in their respective countries. In 2009, the Congress passed legislation designed to increase our share of international visitation the result of which is a program called Brand USA. The entity is a public private partnership that is funded by private donations and a once-annual fee charged to foreign travelers entering the U.S. The program advertises and markets overseas the benefits of traveling to America and has resulted in a significant increase in travelers choosing America as their destination.
Despite the absence of taxpayer money, some believe there have been some issues of public trust and have taken issue with the management of the program. To address these concerns, a House subcommittee unanimously passed legislation reauthorizing the program that added a number of provisions designed to increase transparency in the program and to establish critical performance metrics designed to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. Critically, the reforms also require a competitive procurement process to certify that any contracts the program enters into are in compliance with that new process.
These changes are good news. Every dollar spent by a foreigner in the United States is good for the country and our economy. Brand USA’s promotion program has brought over 1.1 million people into the United States and it is estimated that those visitors, in turn, spent $3.4 billion during their trips. But even a program generating significant revenue and economic activity at no cost to taxpayers should be required to transparently play by the rules. Weeding out the potential cronyism from government while encouraging tourism is conservative government in action.
In a time where the White House is lawlessly run amok and conservative wins are hard to come by, this is an uncommon victory.