Travel Industry Protests Trump Budget’s Plan to Cut Brand USA

May 25, 2017 Smart Meetings

Under President Trump’s proposed budget, Brand USA, the federally funded tourism marketing organization that promotes the United States to international travelers, is in danger of being eliminated.

According to the proposal presented to Congress on Tuesday, the budget would shift Brand USA’s funds to Customs and Border Protection. Although the change may have the administration’s support, leaders in the travel industry have overwhelmingly come out against it. They point to the program’s important role in bringing both leisure travelers and international meeting attendees to the United States.

Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, emphasized that Brand USA is not funded by the federal government and called on legislators to preserve it. “We must urge Congress to protect Brand USA, the international travel marketing arm of the U.S., which is not taxpayer funded, but fully funded by non-federal contributions along with matching funds collected by the government from international visitors who visit under the Visa Waiver Program,” said Van Deventer.

Florida, one of the states that benefits most from tourism, would be greatly affected. In a statement to USA Today, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida stressed the program’s importance for local economies. “It makes zero economic sense to scrap a bipartisan program that encourages international tourists to visit the U.S. It’s especially important for jobs in Florida and other tourism dependent states.”

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, released a scathing assessment of the Trump budget, calling the potential elimination of Brand USA “especially perplexing” because of the current political situation.

The administration’s attempts at passing a travel ban, as well as the implementation of the so-called “laptop ban,” have caused international travelers and meeting planners to reconsider the United States as a travel destination. Scientific meeting associations in particular have called for a boycott of U.S. meetings. A recent study from the Global Business Travel Association expects the country to lose $1.3 billion in travel revenue in 2017.

“The creation of Brand USA was a bipartisan effort led by Republicans that passed both chambers by overwhelming majorities. The agency was responsible for adding $8.9 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the firm Oxford Economics—a 28-to-1 return on investment,” says Dow. “Brand USA isn’t funded with a dime of taxpayer money, reduced the deficit by $50 million, and by the Office of Management and Budget’s own accounting, eliminating it would put the federal budget further in the red.

“With international visitation being the country’s No. 2 export supporting 15 million American jobs, we’re struggling to understand how cutting Brand USA squares with this administration’s stated priorities.”

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