From his perch as co-chairman of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., continues his fight for Brand USA.
Established in 1979, the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus works to promote domestic and international tourism, including supporting Brand USA, a public-private partnership which works to bring visitors from across the globe to visit the United States. A similar caucus was launched in the Senate back in 2011. Bilirakis took over as a co-chairman of it five years ago.
This week, Bilirakis pushed to reauthorize Brand USA, an effort he successfully led back in 2014. Brand USA is penciled into expire in 2020. Bilirakis gathered more than 70 colleagues to call on Congress to renew Brand USA and stress its importance.
The congressman also noted that the Sunshine State was very dependent on tourism and he pointed to figures indicating that 2018 is on pace to be a record year for tourism in Florida. In the first six months of the year, more than 65 million visitors came to the Sunshine State. More than 1.4 million jobs in Florida are supported by tourism.
“I am happy to have such widespread, bipartisan support on an issue that is of such importance to our state. This is a commonsense issue that will help ensure our state’s economy continues to grow. All Floridians benefit from tourism and the dollars these visitors spend in our communities,” said Bilirakis on Tuesday.
The caucus has more than 75 members including Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Frederica Wilson from Florida.
First elected to Congress in 2006, Bilirakis is the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. While he has usually won reelection by decisive margins, Democrats believe they have an outside shot of beating Bilirakis this year as he faces former FBI agent and federal prosecutor Chris Hunter in November. Angelika Purkis, a nurse practitioner, is also running against Bilirakis with no party affiliation.