Roundtable Weekly - August 9, 2019

Economic Growth - Travel & Tourism - Tourism

Senate Committee Advances Legislation to Reauthorize “Brand USA” Tourism Marketing Program

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 24 overwhelmingly passed  S. 2203 , the Brand USA Extension Act  to reauthorize the organization that promotes the U.S. globally as a travel destination. 
Survey. 

Brand USA is a public-private partnership  that attracts international travelers to the U.S. to encourage tourism spending at America's hospitality, retail, attraction and other properties.  The Brand USA marketing organization operates at no expense to taxpayers.  Private sector contributions fund the program, matched by U.S. government fees collected from foreign visitors who enjoy visa-free entry to the U.S.

  • Brand USA is a public-private partnership  that attracts international travelers to the U.S. to encourage tourism spending at America's hospitality, retail, attraction and other properties.  The Brand USA marketing organization operates at no expense to taxpayers.  Private sector contributions fund the program, matched by U.S. government fees collected from foreign visitors who enjoy visa-free entry to the U.S. 
  • The federal portion of Brand USA funding runs out next year.  S. 2203 would extend the federal cost-share until 2027, and increase the foreign traveler fees that pay for the federal portion. 
  • The bill's bipartisan co-sponsors are Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lindsey Grahan (R-SC), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).  Nearly 50 senators signed-onto a bipartisan May 2019 "Dear Colleague" letter to support reauthorizing and extending Brand USA
  • The Real Estate Roundtable is part of the Visit U.S. Coalition which advocates for Brand USA reauthorization.  The coalition, led by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, also includes the American Resort Development Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The importance of international travel to the domestic economy, job growth, and CRE was the focus of a panel discussion during The Roundtable's 2018 Annual Meeting. (Roundtable Weekly, June 15, 2018). 
  • study released last year shows that Brand USA's marketing efforts brought in 6.6 million incremental international visitors to the U.S. between 2013 and 2018, at a return-on-investment of $28 in visitor spending for every $1 the agency spent on marketing. 
  • S. 2203 is introduced at a crucial time, as recent travel trend figures forecast steady declines in the U.S.'s share of the international travel market through at least 2022.   The decline in market share represents estimated losses to the domestic economy of 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in international traveler spending and 120,000 U.S. jobs. (USTA news release, Aug. 1) 
  • Other travel policy legislation is pending in the House.  Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Tom Rice (R-SC) on April 9 reintroduced the bipartisan Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act of 2019 (H.R. 2187) to improve national security, increase international tourism, and reform visa laws.  (Roundtable Weekly, April 26, 2019) 

When Congress returns from its summer recess on Sept. 9, policymakers will face the task of setting FY'20 federal appropriations for individual agencies and departments - before current funding runs out on September 30.  It is uncertain which individual programs such as Brand USA could be addressed within these funding bills, or whether Congress will need to pass an extension of current funding levels via a "Continuing Resolution."  (Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 2)

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Capital and Credit - Energy, Climate and Immigration

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Risk Disclosure Gaining Interest Among Policymakers

A recent hearing by a House Financial Services subcommittee reflects a growing interest among policymakers regarding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting by public companies.  (" Building a Sustainable and Competitive Economy: An Examination of Proposals to Improve Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Disclosures ," July 10 hearing) 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) – chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets – stated during the July 10 hearing, "Investors overwhelmingly want companies to disclose ESG information, especially because there's now considerable evidence that companies that perform better on ESG metrics, also perform better financially."  

  • ESG disclosures generally address issues in the areas of environmental sustainability (e.g., climate change); social (e.g., human rights and labor practices); and governance (e.g., executive- and board-level diversity) matters.  ( Financial Services Committee memorandum , July 5)  Nareit's ESG Dashboard  identifies and tracks key performance indicators to better measure and quantify best ESG practices for the U.S. REIT industry.  
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) – chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets – stated during the hearing, "Investors overwhelmingly want companies to disclose ESG information, especially because there's now considerable evidence that companies that perform better on ESG metrics, also perform better financially." 
  • She added, "I believe the best way to improve the quality and consistencies of these disclosures is for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to establish standards for ESG Disclosure that would apply to all public companies in the United States." (Video of entire hearing, July 10) 
  • During the hearing, policymakers considered the merits of five draft bills that would require public companies to disclose information on several ESG topics – including climate change risk, political expenditures and human rights risk.  ( DavisPolk , July 11)   
  • Issues raised included whether the draft bills would mandate this type of disclosure for all public companies. Other issues included:
• Whether mandated disclosure is necessary given current voluntary disclosure practices; 
•  The potential increased regulatory burden of these disclosures, which could negatively impact U.S. IPO markets; and 
•  Whether ESG issues qualify as material information for investors.  
  • In the Senate, the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing in April 2019 on the application of ESG principles in investing. 

  • Regulators also are considering ESG topics. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission last month voted to establish a Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee to address climate-related financial risks. (CFTC, July 10)
  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in a recent interview said that not all ESG matters are created equally. "Matters considered to be in the G category tend to be a lot closer to the core governance issues that investors have come to expect in terms of disclosure from our public companies. In contrast, matters considered to be in the E category, such as regulatory risk, and risk to property and equipment vary widely from industry to industry and country to country," Clayton said.  (Directors & Boards, July 22) 
According to a recent report by  US|SIF , ESG factors in the United States continue to play an increased role in investment decisions. Total US-domiciled assets under management using ESG strategies grew from $8.7 trillion at the start of 2016 to $12 trillion at the start of 2018, a 38 percent increase.  This represents 26 percent-or 1 in 4 dollars-of the total US assets under professional management.  (US|SIF,  2018 Report on US Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact Investing Trends ).
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