New Department of Homeland Security (DHS) measures to strengthen airport security and streamline passenger screening won approval of the Travel Industry Association (TIA). The association praised Congress and President Bush for enacting legislation that will fund significant reforms to America's visitor security and entry system.
TIA noted that the fiscal year 2009 Homeland Security Appropriations bill includes several measures designed to strengthen U.S. security and reverse the decline in overseas travel to the U.S. since September 11, 2001.
"With the enactment of this legislation, Congress and President Bush have strengthened airport security and acted to improve the travel experience for millions of overseas visitors to the United States," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of TIA. "We urge Congress to build upon these important reforms by passing the Travel Promotion Act, which will help the U.S. to welcome millions more legal and secure travelers, create thousands of new jobs, and attract billions in new visitor spending."
Specific travel system reforms funded by the legislation include:
* $10 million for the DHS Global Entry program which offers expedited security screening to arriving international passengers who agree to register in advance and provide security and background information to the U.S. government.
* $8.75 million to hire 173 more Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to improve security and speed passenger processing at America's international airports, and $28.3 million to hire 561 new CBP officers at America's land borders.
* $500,000 to hire additional staff to manage expansion of the Visa Waiver Program, which enables visitors from friendly nations that agree to stringent security requirements to travel to the U.S. without a visa.
The importance of overseas travel is reflected in numerous studies showing that those who have visited America have more favorable opinions of our country and are more likely to support U.S. policies, the TIA says.