22 May

Weeks before the Senate approved sweeping Immigration reform, a black hole in illegal immigration was glossed over then swept under the carpet, buried in a hearing labelled tourism. Brand USA, an affiliate of the Treasury Department, had convened together witnesses in support of continuing their program- men and women from parts of the tourism industry, and one quasi celeb witness, Kathleen Matthews, wife of ‘thrill up my leg’ radio show host, Chris Matthews. the seemingly orphaned children of the tourism and hospitality industry were gathered in House Building, Rayburn, room 2322 at a hearing chaired by Congressman Lee Terry. While the hearing appeared to be a tourism concerned, the hearing turned out to be a ‘keep funding and facilitating Brand USA.’ Terry was proud to acknowledge that he himself himself cut his work teeth in food services and amusement jobs, something young men and women across America share as a rite of passage.

Tourism marketing is proving to work. Brand USA is at its helm, steering Visas.

Brand USA,, had been set up by the US government, as the, purported, go-to-people in government, for tourism affiliates- restaurant, amusement parks and other related industries, towards the end goal of promoting tourism.
“Brand USA was established by the Travel Promotion Act to spearhead the nation’s first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and to communicate U.S. entry/exit policies and procedures to worldwide travelers. Formed as the Corporation for Travel Promotion in 2010, the public-private entity began operations in May 2011 and does business as Brand USA.”

Brand USA is a start up that began in the UK and Canada. Brand USA is working with the Department of Commerce believing it helps America be in that game. Brand USA is offering to pre clear people for areas where there are lines. Dow said the Visa Waiver countries are low risk countries.

Brand USA is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Each Member of the Board is expert in diverse areas and sectors of the travel industry. Caroline Beteta, Board Chair; David Lim, formerlynAmtrak Acela Brand Assistant Vice-President of the Acela Brand; Brand USA vice chair of operations, Daniel J. Halpern, FMP, is President/CEO and co-founder of Jackmont Hospitality, Inc.; George Ferttita, formerly of Mayor Bloomberg office; Randy A. Garfield CTC is Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Travel Operations for Disney Destinations –a $10-plus billion business unit of The Walt Disney Company and President of the Walt Disney Travel Company; Sabre Holdings ‘ Tom Klein overseeing a portfolio of businesses– Sabre Airline Solutions, Saber Hospitality Solutions, Sabre Travel Network and Travelocity; Mark Schwab, Chief Executive Officer of Star Alliance Services GmbH. He; Diane Shober tourism director for the state of Wyoming; Arne M. Sorenson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, Inc.; Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine chef Roy Yamaguchi; and Lynda S. Zengerle a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where she heads the Immigration practice in the International Department.

Brand USA has Global Offices in China, Japan, Korea, United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Brazil, China. The mission of Brand USA is “to encourage increased international visitation to the United States and to grow America’s share of the global travel market. In doing so, we aim to bring millions of new international visitors who spend billions of dollars to the United States, creating tens of thousands of new American jobs.”

Brand USA is a member funded organization that while stating it does not take off dollars from taxpayers is in fact diverting dollars from visas that are funneled into facilitating funding. Brand USA’s activities are said to be funded at no cost to U.S. taxpayers, instead, funded through a combination of private-sector investment and matching funds collected from visitors who come from abroad to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. Brand USA provides policy advice to the Secretary of Commerce on issues affecting US tourism.
Tourism means 8 million jobs nations wide, local jobs, it attracts local visitors who bring dollars they spend.

Obama had established a task force to promote travel.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky boasted of her state, Illinois’, “Enjoy Illinois” promotion Schakowsky touted at the hearing onset before introducing Virgin Island Congresswoman Christensen. Schakowsky acknowledged sequester had an impact on her constituency. Congressman Lance, from New Jersey, spoke as if words from his mouth was on time-delay, his mouth moved and his words were slow to come out. Lance, a Conservative, evoked Hurricane Sandy. Sandy impacted Lance’s home state, New Jersey, hard. Jersey’s tourism was struggling to bounce back. Last, word on the $31 million fund gathered by Governor Cris Christie’s wife was the funds were still ponding. Simpler said, all these months later, her hurricane Sandy fund was a boat to nowhere, so to speak, let alone to tourism which would bring commerce back to the shore now that the reality TV is gone.

Congressman Long, a dopplanger for Boss Hoggs from Duke’s of Hazards, boasted of Branson being the leading tourism area of the country if not the world, in his opinion, challenged from the back bench by ‘static’, his colleagues, he said. California Congressman Henry Waxman, boasted of his Constituency, including Rodeo Drive, supported President Obama’s initiatives to attract tourism to America. Waxman said he has long supported a National Initiative For Tourism. Waxman pointed out there is good reason for Chicago being called Second City.

Congressman Dow said that every plane that lands adds one new American job that cannot beSenate approved nor outsourced. Tourism is growing 3 times faster than other industries. Dow said Brand USA levels the playing field for industries across the country. Dow credits Brand USA is not funded by taxpayer dollars, presenting it as a Peace Corps of sorts for tourism. Including from Visa Waiver countries is South Korea which brings in multi million dollars and tourists without mention as to now, in these days of Immigration Act and terrorism and security concern uptick. Dow said that countries that travel more get business. Dow said Western Europe, Asia, Brazil are the sweet spots for American tourism to hone in on.

Chris Matthews wife, Kathleen Matthews was up next to testify on behalf of Marriott, her employer. Matthews says her company is sworn to putting people first, just not conservative candidates. Each hotel opening opens up transformational thousands of jobs from construction to door openers. Matthews boasted about the new Marriott under crane near the Washington Convention center. Matthews says jobs at Marriott are gateways to middle class, where a lifeguard can become a head of a division in a hotel that was projected to grow to 100 hotels and in fact has grown to over 3800 hotels. Matthew said there are over 1 billion individual tourist trips she wants to see coming to Orlando, Branson and not just Paris. Marriotts chairman is on the board of a Brand USA. It took chairman Terry’s multiple tap tap taps to bring Matthews testimony to a close. Matthews said the visa waiver is at issue to encourage tourism without mention of how someone tracks a tourist that doesn’t go home. Dow said if we fix it they will come, seeking to show tourists ‘the elsewhere’ tourists should consider, for their next trips, after visiting ie New York, Los Angeles, etc. Matthews boasted of hotels built alongside Indian reservations without addressing the attraction- the casinos.

Enterprise Holdings was founded 56 years ago by a veteran who served on the ship the Enterprise. Car rentals are an overlooked cog of the tourism industry. Rothery, Enterprise’ spokesman, said their car industry is best split into two divisions – airport at $12 billion and neighborhood at $12 billion. Rothery stressed the importance of neighborhood rentals be it from insurers providing replacement cars, people doing pickups, urban dwellers who can’t afford cars or just don’t want to. Entry level jobs, at Enterprise, are more of a career than a job. All Enterprise administration are former entry persons who learned their jobs from the ground up. Auto dealerships rely on a steady flow of reasonably low mileage cars. The Enterprise industry of car rentals are challenged by zipcars and by taxes. Rothery said taxes on car rentals is hurting his industry. Congressman Butterfield challenged Rothery if Enterprise supports codifying uniform standards practices in the industry, the Senate bill. Rothery lost this opportunity to tell Congress the car rental industry is beleaguered by upstarts like Uber, Zipcar and
car-to-go which are unregulated, unlicensed and are not tax compliant. Neither did Rothery adress the states that don’t have a sales tax but tax car rentals. Nor did Rothery advise Congress there is a high incident of rental cars being ticketed when driven out of state.

The National Restaurant Industry, was being spoken for by Mr. Riehle. Mr. Riehle boasted that most people got working starts in restaurants. The NRI is a large employer of minority persons. One in four travel and sales dollars in restaurants come from this industry. Restaurants are a large employer of seasonal workers. Restaurants are a barometer for the rest of the economy in that food in the restaurant comes from the heartland, with a new driver of reality tv shows driving taste buds globally and locally too. Riehle wants food options in front of their tourist before they even leave home. The restaurant restaurant is a competitive industry, more so now. Restaurant is a complex industry, moreso for legislating. From a research destination on a seasonal industry thereare full time employees who work part time and part time employees who work full time…. Certain areas are known for regional cuisines Riehle said. Travelers do their culinary research before heading out the door with an expectation of glorious gluttony when they arrive.

Schakowsky asked it sequester has hurt tourism. John Dow said he supports smart cuts. No one else on the panel fed into Schakowsky’s search for a negative comment. Matthews said the greatest losses were observed in their luxury brand. Dow said the tourism industry employs the under employed so it should be seen as a career builder. Not getting the answers she sought, Schakowsky sought stats comparative to pre recession times. Intercontinental Hotels has not recovered so well.

Congressman Harper from Mississippi raised the specter on Obamacare’s consequence in their industry. Harper said he hears that restaurants are even sharing employees. The ‘survey said’, a monthly Q & A to members are looking at the greater cost it saddles the company with. Matthews said during the downturn Marriott did not take away the health care. They will see additional costs, focused on prevention, exercise, a penalty for someone who is a smoker, etc, in an effort to reduce costs.

Congressman Matheson from Utah noted that Matthews leads Working Mothers magazines poll. Matheson said 40% of corn raised in America doesn’t go to food, it goes to corn, beggaring the question how rising food costs impact the restaurant industry costs.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA, is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), travel that poses a challenge to law enforcement or security risk. ESTA approval authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the United States under the VIsa Worker Program. Private carriers must be a signatory visa waiver program carrier. Applications must be submitted, at least 72 hours before travel, prior to boarding. In most cases, responses are received within seconds of submitting applications.

ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet the legal requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa when a visa is required. Travelers that possess a valid U.S. visa may travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose it was issued. Travelers traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an ESTA. In the same way that a valid visa does not guarantee admission to the United States, an approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admission to the United States.

ESTA became mandatory January 12, 2009. VWP applicants are required to complete a white Customs declaration upon arrival in the U.S. whether or not they have an ESTA authorization. VWP travelers are no longer required to complete the green I-94W card.

The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (Section 9 of the United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145) required two charges for the VISA Waiver Program. Brand USA is supposed to be about jobs that can’t be outsourced. Immigration officers receive information electronically. There is a Processing Charge required from applicants requesting an electronic travel fee $4.00
Brand USA does not want ESTA to sunset. ESTA is set to. ESTA applications expire in less than two years.

New ESTA authorizations are required if:
– a new passport is issued
– a name is changed
– a gender is changed
– a country of citizenship is changed
– circumstances change such as a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude or develop a contagious disease

Approved ESTA applications are valid for a period of two years, or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. ESTA visas can be used for multiple trips to the United States without the traveler having to re-apply for another ESTA. It isnt required for ESTA travel information to be updated before each trip to the U.S. ESTA travelers U.S. may only stay up to 90 days at a time with the expectation there should be a reasonable amount of time between visits. There is no set requirement for how long ESTA travelers must wait between visits.

Brand USA doesn’t want ESTA to sunset. They dont worry to confirm if a guest on an ESTA tourist visa departs. Or stays. Or is wrapped up in the national immigration issues at stake.


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