Travel Industry Groups Defend Brand USA

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Travel industry groups are continuing to weigh in in defense of Brand USA, which would be eliminated in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal. 

“Brand USA brings millions of additional visitors to the U.S., and adds billions to the economy,” said the U.S. Travel Association in a written release. “It’s a public-private partnership that uses zero taxpayer dollars—and the president has previously voiced strong support for that kind of funding structure.”

U.S. Travel noted that the organization was created through a bipartisan effort led by Republicans. According to an analysis by Oxford Economics, the organization brought 4.4 million additional visitors to the United States, resulting in $14.6 billion in spending and generating nearly $3.9 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues and $31.8 billion in total economic impact. 

Similarly, the national executive committee of Skål International—USA has called for the program to be preserved. 

"Brand USA has done an effective job growing the inbound travel market to America," said Holly Powers, president of Skål International—USA in a written release. "In the last year alone, we have seen an additional economic impact of $8.2 billion from the travel industry, allowing it to continue as America's leading export."

Skål said that Brand USA is funded from private contributions and federal matching from ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) fees paid by inbound visitors from visa waiver countries, who pay $14 every two years to visit the United States. The Trump budget proposes transferring these fees to Customs and Border Patrol

Visitation to the United States is down more than 10 percent in 2017 year to date versus 2016, Skål said. 

At the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow (IPW) Conference being held this week in Washington, DC, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said that “Brand USA is here to stay,” Multibriefs reports. 

"What we're experiencing right now is really no different than any time when we welcome a new administration," Christopher Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, told Multibriefs. "A new president has come off the campaign trail; he has made promises and assurances of what he wants to do. In this case, the president's focus initially was policy that directly affects travel."

When the budget was first announced, the U.S. Travel Association had said that eliminating Brand USA would come at the “worst possible time.” 

The proposal is the latest in a series of warning signs for inbound tourism to the United States. Recently the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) forecast a $1.3 billion loss in overall travel-related expenditures in the United States this year, blaming political instability ranging from the Brexit vote to the Trump administration’s travel ban and ban on large electronics in airline cabins.

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