The Senate Commerce Committee last week approved the Travel Promotion Act, a five-year plan to attract more international visitors to the United States.
The act provides for the creation of a nonprofit, public-private partnership—with an annual budget of up to $200 million a year—charged with promoting international travel into the United States, as well as better educating foreign visitors about documentation needed to enter the country.
U.S. tourism and hospitality leaders have been lobbying for the legislation since it was first introduced in Congress in 2007. But even with the Commerce Committee’s action last week, final implementation of the legislation is not certain. It still needs to go before the full Senate, and the House of Representatives—which passed similar legislation a year ago—will have to revisit the issue, since a new Congress began in January.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose state has been particularly hard hit by the recession and resultant loss of tourism revenue. “Nevada’s economy relies on tourism, and with so many Nevada families struggling, now is the time to send the Travel Promotion Act to the president’s desk,” said Ensign, in a statement applauding the Commerce Committee’s passage of the act. “This means jobs at a time when we have double-digit unemployment.”
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association—the driving force behind lobbying efforts for the legislation—has called the act “a jobs and growth package.” In lobbying for the act, U.S. Travel has argued that the decline in international travel to the United States since 9/11 has cost the U.S. more than 40 million visitors, $140 billion in lost visitor spending, and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
"Our nation's economy is struggling, and international travel promotion is part of the solution," said Dow in a statement. "This much-needed legislation will help the United States to create thousands of new jobs and welcome billions in new spending by international visitors.”