by Beth J. Harpaz, The Associated Press, May 25, 2017
The U.S. travel industry is expressing concern about the proposed elimination of funding for Brand USA in President Donald Trump's budget plan.
Brand USA, a tourism marketing organization, was created after President Barack Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act in 2010. Brand USA's mission is to increase international visitation to the U.S. as a driver of the economy, to promote the country's image worldwide and to communicate visa and entry policies.
Travel and tourism is an important sector of the U.S. economy.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada) criticized the proposal to cut Brand USA, saying the organization has "attracted millions of visitors who have spent billions of dollars in Las Vegas and other destinations."
Several travel industry organizations, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Travel Association, also said Brand USA provides critical marketing for the U.S. tourism industry.
"The creation of Brand USA was a bipartisan effort led by Republicans that passed both chambers by overwhelming majorities," U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "The agency was responsible for adding $8.9 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the firm Oxford Economics."
Brand USA is a public-private partnership but it does not receive taxpayer money. It receives funding from destinations, travel brands and private organizations along with funds collected by the U.S. government from fees paid by international travelers applying online to visit the U.S. under the visa waiver program. The budget proposal would redirect that money to the Customs and Border Protection account that handles those online applications.
Brand USA has a staff of 60 and its annual budget is about $150 million. In 2016, the organization received $93 million in federal funding.
The proposed elimination of funding for Brand USA was part of Trump's budget plan presented Tuesday. The budget proposal also calls for deep cuts in food stamps and many other programs. Opposition to various provisions of the budget plan is expected in Congress, which must approve any final budget decisions.
Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.