WASHINGTON — After plenty of anxious months of waiting for the legislative wheels to turn, the trade show industry had a big holiday wish fulfilled in December as Congress finally approved the long-awaited reauthorization of the Brand USA program, which promotes the lucrative international business-travel market in the United States.
The reauthorization, which runs through 2027, was a small but important part of the major year-end spending bill that President Trump signed just as Washington began its annual holiday hiatus. It marked the successful conclusion of a concerted effort by the trade show industry, led by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), to push for the continuation of the program. Brand USA helps bring overseas attendees to shows in the United States through marketing promotions and assistance in navigating the visa-application process.
“IAEE and the U.S. exhibitions and events industry are thrilled about the reauthorization of Brand USA,” said IAEE President and CEO David DuBois. “Strong marketing and promotion efforts will continue to result in positive attendance and exhibitor growth.”
Extending the life of Brand USA has been a top priority for IAEE and travel associations since the program is seen as highly productive for the overall travel and exhibitions industry. Brand USA is funded by the travel industry and through fees paid by inbound visitors.
Reauthorization of the funding process was on the agenda of Exhibitions Day the U.S. industry’s annual pilgrimage to Washington to lobby Congress on issues affecting trade shows. The annual Exhibitions Day is an IAEE initiative and Trade Show Executive has been an among the program’s active sponsors.
In 2019, the industry delegations pressed lawmakers and congressional staff on the benefits of Brand USA to the taxpayers and voters in their home districts, but previous reauthorization bills in recent years failed to make it through the legislative process before Congress adjourned and the bills expired.
Bipartisan measures in the House and the Senate made it to the final version of the larger spending package that landed on the president’s desk. “This bipartisan win renews the successful Brand USA international marketing program and locks in a stable funding source that will advance America’s reputation as a world-class tourism destination,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT., one of the sponsors of the House bill, said in a written statement.
The US Travel Association (USTA), which had also been a leader in promoting reauthorization, said passage of the bill was an encouraging reminder that Congress was still able to act in a bipartisan manner on issues that clearly benefit the U.S. economy. “The work of Brand USA’s congressional champions to shepherd it through an incredibly busy legislative calendar was truly remarkable,” said USTA President and CEO Roger Dow.