Trump budget kills program meant to boost US tourism

Trump budget kills program meant to boost US tourism
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A marketing program that promotes tourism in the United States would be completely gutted under President Trump’s budget request, stepping up concern about the Trump presidency in an already-worried travel industry.

The fiscal 2018 spending proposal, released by the White House on Tuesday, says it would eliminate “Brand USA” in order to funnel more money toward border security.

The marketing program is a public-private partnership that was set up by Congress in 2011 as part of an effort to bill the United States as a top tourist destination for international travelers.

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Trump’s plan to kill the program is sparking major concern among travel advocates, who were already worried that the administration’s efforts to clamp down on foreign travel into the country would dampen U.S. tourism and global business and hurt the economy.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, called the proposal “perplexing” in a statement on Tuesday.

“With all that's going on in the world, unilaterally disarming the marketing of the U.S. as a travel destination would be to surrender market share at the worst possible time,” Dow said.

“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.”

The budget proposal comes as the White House is considering expanding a current ban on large electronics on the cabins of certain U.S.-bound flights. The administration is also fighting in court to put in place a policy that would temporarily bar travel from six majority-Muslim countries.

The travel community is worried that the elimination of Brand USA would depress travel and tourism to the U.S.

Brand USA’s marketing initiatives are responsible for bringing in 3 million incremental international visitors, generating $21 billion in business sales and supporting nearly 50,000 incremental jobs per year, according to Oxford Economics.

The U.S. Travel Association pointed out that scrapping the program would add $510 million to the federal deficit over the next three years, according to the Office of Management and Budget’s own accounting.

The program’s operations are funded through a mix of contributions from destinations, travel brands and private-sector organizations combined with matching funds collected by the U.S. government from international travelers who visit the country under the Visa Waiver Program.

While the president’s budget is mostly just a messaging document and is unlikely to become law, travel advocates are sending a warning message about the impacts of gutting Brand USA.

"We find the Administration’s decision to discontinue funding of Brand USA to be short-sighted," said Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association.

"This proposal, coupled with executive order 13780, sets a dangerous precedent for the travel and tour industry in the United States, especially at a time when the growth of international tourism to the U.S. has slowed. The international tourism industry is key to President Trump’s number one priority — economic growth.”