President Obama is expected to sign in to law within the next week or so the Travel Promotion Act, landmark legislation designed to create 40,000 new travel-industry jobs and attract 1.6 million more international visitors to the United States.
“This is a great day for the travel industry,” said Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer at the U.S. Travel Association, speaking at a press conference on February 26. “The Travel Promotion Act puts us on a path to begin welcoming more international visitors and creating thousands of jobs.”
One day earlier, February 25, the U.S. Senate passed the bill by a vote of 78-18. The only hurdle left to make the bill law is President Obama’s signature. Dow said there is “zero” chance that Obama won’t sign the bill.
The legislation would create a new public-private entity called the Corporation for Travel Promotion. The CTP will be partially funded through a $10 fee, paid once every two years, imposed on Visa Waiver Program travelers coming to the U.S. through the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization program. The rest will come from private donations and grants from corporations. No money will come from taxpayers.
The mission of the CTP will be twofold: to promote the U.S. to international visitors and to disseminate information on security and procedural issues as well as other travel information. Since 2000, the U.S. has not kept pace with other nations in attracting what Dow described as a “gold rush” of international travel. The number of long-haul trips taken by travelers is up 39 percent worldwide since 2000, yet the number of visitors to the U.S. is down 9 percent since then, he said.
Once the president signs the bill, work begins on ramping up the CTP. First, the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees CTP, will appoint an 11-member board of directors. The board will likely consist of individuals from hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, attractions, state tourism offices, and other organizations that are in the business of promoting travel. No representatives of travel or hospitality industry associations, including U.S. Travel, will be on the board, said Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs at U.S. Travel. The Department of Commerce said it is looking for marketing experts with experience promoting to overseas visitors.
The board should be appointed in two to five months, said Freeman. After that, the board will begin the process of hiring staff, appointing an executive director, and developing a marketing plan. In the meantime, the DHS will create the mechanism for collecting fees from VWP travelers.
Once the program is running, the U.S. should be able to attract at least 1.6 million more visitors, worth $4 billion in consumer spending, said Dow, who believes those estimates are conservative. The additional visitors are expected to lead to the creation of at least 40,000 new travel industry-related jobs, according to U.S. Travel.
For more information go to http://www.poweroftravel.org.