Senate Passes Landmark Travel Promotion Act

Landmark legislation that establishes a multimillion-dollar,
public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier
travel destination and better explain travel security policies to
foreign travelers gained final passage by a strong bipartisan vote of 78
to 18 in the Senate last week.

According to independent analysis by Oxford Economics, the
program could attract 1.6 million additional visitors from other
countries and create more than $4 billion in consumer spending annually.
The legislation, which passed the House in November, is expected to be
signed into law by President Obama in the coming days.

“This is a historic victory for the U.S. economy and the one in
eight American workers whose jobs depend on travel,” Roger Dow,
president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, stated in a news
release. “The United States Congress has sent a clear message that
travel is a high priority to our nation and that tangible steps must be
taken to increase travel to and within the United States. We are
extremely grateful to the bill’s champions: Senators Reid, Dorgan,
Ensign and Klobuchar in the Senate and Representatives Delahunt, Blunt
and Farr in the House.”

The Travel Promotion Act creates the Corporation for Travel
Promotion, modeled after successful programs in U.S. states and other
developed nations, with the mission of attracting more visitors to the
United States. The initiative is funded through a matching program
featuring up to $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10
fee on foreign travelers who do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the
United States. The fee will be collected once every two years in
conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System
for Travel Authorization. No money is provided by U.S. taxpayers.

“We know how successful a public-private partnership to promote
travel can be from our own experience at the state level,” said
Caroline Beteta, chair of the U.S. Travel Association and president and
CEO of the California Travel & Tourism Commission. “With the best
minds coming together from government and private industry to boost
international travel to our country, we can make travel an even stronger
economic engine for America.”

The corporation will work closely with the departments of
Commerce, Homeland Security and State to develop a nationally
coordinated, multi-channel marketing and communications program to
attract more international visitors and explain changing travel security
policies.

“We could never have accomplished this common sense policy
without our champions in Congress and the White House, and without the
united and passionate voice of the travel community. The Travel
Promotion Act shows what can be accomplished when the government and
private sector work together to solve a problem,” said Jonathan Tisch,
chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and chairman emeritus of the U.S.
Travel Association.

Research shows that international travel to the United States,
especially from overseas origins, has suffered due to negative
perceptions about travel processes following increased security reforms
post 9/11. While international travel has boomed over the past decade,
with 46 million more international travelers taking long-haul trips in
2009 than in 2000, the United States actually lost visitors, welcoming
2.4 million fewer overseas travelers than in 2000.

The failure of the United States to simply keep pace with the
growth in international long-haul travel has cost a combined 68 million
visitors to the U.S. and more than $500 billion in total spending over
the last decade.

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