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US administration aims to ‘restore competitiveness’ as borders reopen

The Biden-Harris administration aims to “restore the competitiveness” of the US as a tourism destination as it prepares for the reopening of borders on November 8.

Speaking to Travel Weekly during Brand USA’s Travel Week event in London, Sarah Morgenthau, deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the US Department of Commerce and a senior member of the administration, said: “International travel to the United States is a critical component in the recovery of travel and tourism.

“In 2019, the US was the world leader in revenues derived from international travel. In that year, 79.4 million people visited the United States and spent $239 billion.

“This international travel spend represented 9.5% of total US exports of goods and services. I am here (in the UK) to tell you that this is important to the United States. Our goal is to restore our competitiveness as international travel reopens.”

Morgenthau (pictured with Brand USA’s Chris Thompson) said the National Travel and Tourism Office, Foreign Commercial Office and Brand USA would all play roles in driving the recovery and supporting the travel trade.

And she confirmed Congress continued to consider options to boost Brand USA funding based on recommendations made to secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo by the private sector Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

Chris Thompson, chief executive of Brand USA, said he was optimistic that the proposal to release the one-off funding of $250 million previously raised through the visa waiver programme would be successful.

He said: “Pretty much from the day we were brought into existence, we have had bipartisan support across Congress, across both parties and both chambers, with a really clear understanding of the importance of travel and tourism.”

He added: “Nearly 10% of everything the world’s largest economy exports is tied to what we do and public-private partnerships [such as Brand USA] are the way to extend resources.

“It is in the political arena and you never know what is going to shake that on any given day, but there has been very strong support as it has been going through the process.”

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