by Michael J. Shapiro | May 23, 2017
President Trump's proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for Brand USA, the marketing organization that seeks to increase inbound travel to the United States, according to documents the administration made public Monday. The proposal acts as a starting point for budget negotiations that will take place in Congress over the next several months.
 
In a recent interview with M&C, Brand USA president Chris Thompson discussed some of the challenges his organization faced amidst the messaging of the White House. "Whenever we have a new administration, there are changes to any number of policies," he noted. "It's just that some of the things this administration is focused on have a direct impact on us."
 
The administration's priorities have become that much clearer in light of the proposed budget, and travel-industry organizations are expressing deep concern. "With all that's going on in the world," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement, "unilaterally disarming the marketing of the U.S. as a travel destination would be to surrender market share at the worst possible time. It's especially perplexing that the elimination of Brand USA is on the table when both Commerce Secretary Ross and OMB Director Mulvaney each have supported it previously."
 
What's more, Dow added, Brand USA has been a successful venture, supported on both sides of the aisle. "The creation of Brand USA was a bipartisan effort led by Republicans that passed both chambers by overwhelming majorities," he said. "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. Brand USA isn't funded with a dime of taxpayer money, reduced the deficit by $50 million, and by the OMB's own accounting eliminating it would put the federal budget further in the red."
 
International visitation is the country's second-most lucrative export, making it a significant factor in any decrease of the U.S. trade deficit. "We're struggling to understand how cutting Brand USA squares with this administration's stated priorities," Dow concluded.