Business Groups Urge Congress to Grow Travel to the U.S.

grand canyonLeaders from a broad-based coalition of travel, hotel, retail, restaurant, professional and business organizations, united behind the Discover America Partnership (DAP), to launch a renewed push to advance the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act through Congress.

The Partnership reflects a far-reaching set of industries and stakeholders that share the need for efficient, secure international travel to the United States – whether the travel is to negotiate business deals, host global conferences and trade shows, or welcome international tourists, DAP notes.

RELATED: U.S. Travel Association Says JOLT Act Passage Would Strengthen Poland Ties

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DAP includes the American Hotel and Lodging Association, International Franchise Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Travel Association, as well as partners like the Entomological Society of America, NYSE Euronext and Ultimate Fighting Championship. The goal: to advocate for improvements to America’s visa system. 

The DAP’s advocacy effort will call on Congress to immediately expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by passing the JOLT Act (H.R. 1354) to help increase international visitation. 

The campaign launches with issue advertising on public affairs news websites targeting members of Congress and their staff. Central to the advertising campaign is a video that underscores the economic benefits of increasing international visitation.

The Partnership will also tap into the kickoff of the World Cup to launch the “Golden Goal Challenge” to illustrate the positive economic impact of welcoming more international travelers. In soccer, the winner is sometimes decided by a sudden-death shootout, or “Golden Goal.” The U.S. faces a similar challenge, the Partnership says.

Although world travel has grown by more than 90 million travelers during the past decade, the U.S. remains far below the 17 percent share of global travel it achieved in 2000, DAP says. Recapturing America's historic share of worldwide travel would create up to 1.4 million American jobs and produce $511 billion in economic output by 2020.

If VWP is extended to strong candidates such as Brazil, Poland, Israel and Croatia through the JOLT Act, the U.S. will take an important step forward in reaching the goal of recapturing its share of international travelers, DAP says. Expansion of VWP to these and other select countries will add nearly $10 billion to the economy and create nearly 60,000 additional American jobs.

DAP says VWP is a rare government initiative without any downside: the program increases visitation from international travelers with no compromise in security because new visitors are coming from friendly, developed countries that meet strict security protocols. The JOLT Act has reached 160 co-sponsors in Congress, roughly split between the two major political parties.

The U.S. has already experienced the economic benefits of expanding VWP. Since South Korea was admitted into the program in 2008, spending by South Korean visitors has increased by 52 percent. Chile recently became the 38th country to gain Visa Waiver access, and estimates show that spending in the U.S. by Chilean visitors will likely triple during Chile’s first year in the program, DAP says.

“The Visa Waiver Program is an essential policy that will greatly benefit a wide range of industries and businesses,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which chairs the Partnership. “Travel to the U.S. is our country’s number one services export, contributing nearly $181 billion to the economy and supporting more than 1.2 million American jobs."


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