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Over the years, I’ve had many off-the-record meetings with executives who tell me their brands are so strong that they don’t need to market to travel agents. When I hear this, I generally just smile and nod, because I know how this strategy plays out. In a year or two — after watching their market share dwindle — these companies change their tune and scramble to get agents to support them again.
There’s a reason why even the most well-known brands continue to market themselves. This is true of destination marketing as well, which is why it’s so upsetting to see funding for Brand USA, the tourism marketing organization for the U.S., eliminated from the president’s proposed budget.
According to independent statistics, tourism brings in $8.9 billion in revenue each year and is responsible for about 15 million jobs in the U.S. Brand USA, which is not funded by tax dollars, is credited with a 28-to-1 return on investment and with a $50 million reduction in the federal deficit. These are just some of the reasons why so many industry groups are urging Congress to keep Brand USA.
“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,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “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.”
Other industry representatives point out that a secondary objective of Brand USA is to explain complicated and ever-changing U.S. visa procedures to potential visitors. Eliminating this assistance can be an added deterrent to travelers.
Tourism is one of our country’s most efficient and effective industries, and it also communicates a welcoming image of the U.S. — a message that is particularly important these days. Interfering with this mission by eliminating Brand USA is short-sighted and simply makes no sense. Let’s hope our elected officials see the inevitable results of this mistake before it’s too late.