Travel and hospitality industries express serious concern over Trump budget
Leaders in travel and hospitality have expressed serious concern this week over the portion of President Trump’s newly-released budget plan that proposes to eliminate funding for Brand USA, which has typically had bipartisan support, and instead make those funds available to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection organization.
Brand USA is a public-private national tourism marketing organization that was launched in 2011 to “increase incremental international visitation, spend, and market share to fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide.” They also communicate some visa and entry policies to travellers.
Several organizations are now speaking out against the proposed elimination of Brand USA, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Travel Association.
Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA, expressed her concern this week in a statement over the economic instability that the elimination of Brand USA might create for the hospitality industry:
“In the last several years, Brand USA has been a powerful force in providing America with a competitive edge and has served as a highly successful promotional program attracting millions of visitors from countries near and far. The program boosts the U.S. economy as Brand USA results in nearly $30 billion in total economic impact, contributes nearly $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and supports an average of nearly 50,000 incremental jobs a year – jobs that cannot be exported and which extend well beyond the travel industry.”
According to the AHLA, Brand USA is a critical driver of U.S. economic growth and job creation for the travel and hospitality industries.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued similar sentiments in a statement and expressed his surprise at the proposed elimination of Brand USA since both Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney previously pledged their support for the organization, which he said added $8.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016.
“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,” said Dow.
Brand USA does not receive any taxpayer money as a source of funding but instead generates funds from private donations by other travel organizations and brands as well as from a portion of visa fees paid by international travellers. According to the Washington Post, Brand USA employs a staff of 60 and operates with an annual budget of approximately $150 million, $93 million of which was made up of federal funding in 2016.