Washington — The trade show industry has joined the opposition to a federal budget proposal that would eliminate a crucial source of funding for Brand USA, the marketing program that promotes international travel to the U.S.
The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) was among dozens of travel associations, corporations and destination marketing organizations that signed a letter sent June 5 to congressional leaders by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) urging them to keep Brand USA’s funding intact. “This program is very valuable as it is an extensive marketing and promotional effort to brand the USA in a positive and welcoming way, which is very important to the overall retention and expansion of international visitors to U.S. exhibitions and events,” IAEE President & CEO David DuBois said.
Brand USA was launched in 2010 to increase international travel to the U.S. It was authorized by the U.S. Travel Promotion Act through 2020. The Associated Press reported that Brand USA’s total 2016 budget of $150 million included $93 million from Uncle Sam. Supporters say Brand USA’s efforts generated $8.9 billion for the U.S. economy last year.
The Trump administration has proposed a halt to the current practice of using fees collected from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) that currently matches the travel industry’s contributions to Brand USA. The ESTA collects $14 every two years from each traveler from visa-waiver countries. The budget proposal would divert the ESTA fees to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
No congressional hearings on Brand USA had been scheduled by the time the trade show industry rallied on Capitol Hill for Global Exhibitions Day on June 7; however, the budget debate was expected to continue into the Fall.
Brand USA does not provide marketing services for trade shows, specifically, but it does polish the image of the U.S. as an overall travel destination. More importantly to show organizers, Brand USA also helps educate overseas attendees on the current procedures for applying for a visa.
“Brand USA is charged with communicating our evolving visa and entry policies by addressing confusion about our security protocols that can discourage potential visitors from choosing U.S. destinations,” the USTA letter said. “Brand USA helps ensure that they get accurate explanations of our changing rules — and ultimately return home to spread the word about America’s attractions and hospitality, generating good will for years to come.”