The U.S. Travel Association on Wednesday announced the recipients of the sixth annual Distinguished Travel Champion Award: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Sen. Rob Portman (D-OH), Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Acting Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Manisha Singh.

Each is being honored for his or her exceptional leadership in advancing and protecting policies that strengthen travel to and within the United States.

U.S. Travel will present the awards today at U.S. Travel’s Destination Capitol Hill—the travel and tourism industry’s premier legislative fly-in event dedicated to educating policymakers about the power of travel and showcasing the industry as one of America’s most vital economic sectors.

“We always say that travel is neither a red or blue issue,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. “This year’s Distinguished Travel Champions have a deep understanding of travel’s contributions to the American economy, and have consistently reached across the aisle to advance sensible policies that grow travel, enhance security and trade, and keep our economy moving.

“Our winners’ dedication to securing Brand USA’s long-term reauthorization, overhauling America’s infrastructure systems, preserving our national parks, rebranding and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, and upholding our nation’s Open Skies aviation agreements strengthen travel’s role as job creator and economic engine.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Since entering Congress just two years ago, Cortez Masto has quickly become an advocate for the travel industry and a top congressional champion of Brand USA. Her tireless work and dedication to ensuring the reauthorization of Brand USA, a program crucial to the United States’ travel promotion and planning, is invaluable.

Said Cortez Masto: “I’m honored to receive the 2019 Distinguished Travel Champion Award. I say it all the time, Nevada is the gold standard for tourism and hospitality. We draw tourists to the Las Vegas Valley and from the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe to the scenic peaks of the Ruby Mountains. I’m so proud to support our $60 billion tourism economy and the jobs it supports in Nevada. As Senator, I’ll continue to fight for policies like Brand USA and those to increase efficient travel that strengthen our tourism industry for years to come.”

Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
DeFazio’s commitment to overhauling infrastructure systems within our country is crucial to increasing connectivity and facilitating travel growth across America. He has also undertaken laudable efforts to end the practice of diverting “9/11” security fees to other programs unrelated to air travel security.

DeFazio’s dedication to his home state’s $11.8 billion travel and tourism industry is commendable, as is his work to ensure local travel leaders have a voice in the state’s transportation planning.

Said DeFazio: “I am proud to be this year’s recipient of the U.S. Travel Association’s Distinguished Travel Champion Award. Travel and tourism promote economic prosperity, create jobs, and strengthen our national security through improved international relations. As Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am working hard to modernize our nation’s airports, increase federal investment in infrastructure, and ensure we remain on the cutting edge of innovation as it relates to transportation. All of these improvements will help encourage increased travel and tourism.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH):
Portman’s leadership on national parks issues, as well as many other important fiscal issues facing the country, is vital to the preservation of our public lands and the continued growth of the American economy.

Portman led efforts to pass the Restore Our Parks Act and to establish a dedicated source of funding for the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog that will help ensure the viability of our parks for generations to come. Our national parks are some of the biggest draws for domestic and international travelers, and countless “gateway” communities across the country rely on well-maintained parks and robust visitation.

“It is an honor to receive the U.S. Travel Association’s 2019 Distinguished Travel Champion Award,” said Portman. “If we want our national parks to be here for generations of travelers to come we must address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service. I’ve seen this maintenance backlog firsthand at national park sites in Ohio, and it underscores why we must pass my bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act to ensure that that the National Park Service has the resources to continue preserving American treasures. I look forward to working to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC):
Rice’s co-sponsorship of the JOLT Act and commitment to strengthening and expanding the Visa Waiver Program is crucial to enhancing U.S. security and economic competitiveness.

Rice’s efforts to support towns and cities in his district devastated by Hurricane Florence, including tourism-dependent communities such as Myrtle Beach, have been critical.

Acting Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Manisha Singh:
Singh has undertaken crucial efforts to uphold our country’s vital Open Skies aviation agreements, increase financial transparency and protect the interests of all U.S. aviation stakeholders. She has worked hard to elevate the travel industry as an essential export and economic driver.

Said Singh: “I’m honored to receive U.S. Travel’s 2019 Distinguished Travel Champion Award. The U.S. State Department is pleased to support the U.S. travel industry and American jobs by negotiating and helping to enforce Open Skies aviation agreements that bring flights, travel, and business to the United States from around the world.”

More information about the Distinguished Travel Champion Award is available here.

Learn more about Destination Capitol Hill here.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Cathy Reynolds

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Tim Alford

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