Welch Unveils Bipartisan Legislation to Boost International Visits to Vermont
STOWE – With the bustling Stowe Foliage Arts Festival as a backdrop, Rep. Peter Welch today unveiled legislation he is championing in Congress to boost international tourism to Vermont. Welch made the announcement at Top Notch during a roundtable discussion with leaders of Vermont’s travel and tourism industry.
Welch’s legislation, co-authored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), would renew and fully fund the Brand USA program, a public-private partnership that promotes Vermont and other states to international tourists. The program is funded at no cost to taxpayers through a fee on international visitors.
“The travel and tourism industry is a key driver of Vermont’s economy,” said Welch. “Promoting Vermont as a four-season destination to international visitors will create local jobs and boost the economy in every corner of our beautiful state. My legislation renews the successful Brand USA international marketing program and locks in a stable funding source that will advance Vermont’s reputation as a world class tourism destination.”
“The tourism industry is the heartbeat of the Vermont brand,” said Amy Spear, Vice President of Tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “The renewal of the Brand USA program will bolster our international tourism marketing efforts to ensure a thriving industry in an ever-increasing global market.”
The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2019 (H.R. 3851) would reauthorize Brand USA through 2027. In addition, it fixes a funding glitch that is threatening the successful program’s existence. Specifically, a 2018 budget deal diverted its funding source to other programs. The Welch-Bilirakis bill creates a stable, long term funding source by increasing the international visitor user fee used to partially fund the program.
Brand USA has a strong track record of attracting international visitors to the United States. In 2018 alone, its marketing program brought 1.13 million international visitors to the United States, generating an economic impact of $8.9 billion. According to the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, more than 700,000 international visitors spend about $175 million in Vermont each year.
Welch convened the Stowe roundtable to hear from Vermont’s stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry about the opportunities and challenges they face. Participants included:
Amy Spear, Vice President of Tourism, Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Carrie Simmons, Executive Director, Stowe Area Association
Heidi Scheuermann, State Representative
Walter Frame, Trapp Family Lodge
Jody Fried, Catamount Arts
George Lewis, Brass Lantern Inn
McKee MacDonald, Smith MacDonald Group, Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate
Rachel Vandenberg, Sun & Ski Inn and Suites
Josh Wolfgang, Pinnacle Ski & Sports and Inner Bootworks
Heather Pelham, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing
Nate Formalarie, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing
Xusana Davis, Director of Racial Equality for the State of Vermont
Chuck Ross, Director of UVM Extension, Vermont Tourism Research Center
Erik Hansen, U.S. Travel