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International Tourism Thrives In California Thanks to Brand USA

Mac Shorty, Founder of Community Repower Movement, and a former Methodist Minister. | 8/28/2019, 12:20 p.m.

California is one of America’s top destinations. Tourists travel from all over the world to visit our famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood, Fisherman’s Wharf, Disneyland and Alcatraz Island. Whether it’s riding the cable cars, visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) or any one of a number of sites, we have so much to offer tourists from all backgrounds. 

Over 25 million people traveled to San Francisco alone last year and spent a total of $10 billion. This money supports the many different businesses of all sizes that comprise the tourism industry and local jobs like hotel employees, gas station attendants, museum tour guides, taxi drivers. So, keeping California’s tourism industry thriving is essential for our economy and one way we can boost the economy, even more, is helping to increase the number of international visitors. 

According to a report from the San Francisco Travel Organization, more than 10 percent of San Francisco’s visitors last year – 2.9 million – were international visitors, and it’s projected that the city will see a three percent increase in travel by international tourists from China, South Korea, Brazil, India, and Canada this year. One contributing factor could be that San Francisco is an easy destination for foreign visitors to reach because we are home to an internal airport, which significantly cuts down travel time. The airport offers direct, non-stop flights to over 50 cities world-wide on 44 international airlines. 

But how do international travelers know about the countless activities and sights to see in San Francisco and elsewhere throughout the state? A tourist organization called Brand USA that markets destinations in the United States to international travelers. Brand USA is a public-private partnership with offices across the globe that draws millions of visitors to the United States and helps boost local economies across the country. 

Since its inception, Brand USA’s marketing efforts have helped draw 6.6 million incremental visitors to the United States and support almost 52,000 incremental jobs each year with a $47.7 billion in total economic impact. 

One of the best parts about Brand USA is its funding mechanism. The organization uses zero taxpayer dollars to operate because it’s funded through the Visa Waiver Program. International tourists pay a small fee through this program when they travel to the United States, and a portion of that fee goes to fund Brand USA. The rest is made up of contributions by businesses that are helped by the travel industry. But unfortunately, this great program that benefits California’s tourism industry is at risk of losing this funding. Our state relies on the travel industry for countless jobs and we need to ensure we are fostering this sector of our local economy and doing everything we can to help it grow. 

Thankfully, the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has the power to lead the charge supporting Brand USA’s reauthorization, is one our Representatives. She has served the people of California for many years and I trust she cares about programs that positively impact our community. And as the leader of the House, I know she also cares about her members serving their constituents to the best of their ability too, therefore supporting Brand USA’s reauthorization seems like an easy choice. 

California is a wonderful state filled with countless activities for individuals across the world to enjoy. Tourist organizations like Brand USA are integral to this booming industry and let’s hope it can continue to operate and attract millions of more international tourists to the golden state.