The decline in overseas travel to the U.S. since 9/11 has cost the country 46 million visitors, $140 billion in lost visitor spending and $23 billion in lost tax revenue, according to recent testimony by the Travel Industry Association (TIA).
If the U.S. had simply kept pace with global travel trends in 2007, an additional 340,000 jobs would have been created, the TIA said. In testimony before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Geoff Freeman, senior vice president for public affairs for the TIA said action was needed.
"The United States is a travel bargain with the dollar at an all-time low and yet we welcomed two million fewer overseas visitors in 2007 than 2000," said Freeman. "It is time for a concerted effort to change the global perception that visitors are no longer welcome. The Travel Promotion Act will strengthen America’s economy and standing in the world."
The Travel Promotion Act, H.R. 3232, introduced by Representatives William Delahunt (D-MA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), establishes a public-private partnership to promote the U.S. as a premier international travel destination and communicate U.S. security and entry policies. The bill specifies that travel promotion would be paid for at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. Funds would be generated by private sector contributions and a modest fee on foreign travelers that do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the U.S. Nearly every developed nation in the world spends millions of dollars to attract visitors, the TIA said.
Overseas visitors stay longer and spend more— an average of $4,000 per traveler, per visit— than domestic travelers ($376 per person, per trip on average) or visitors from Canada and Mexico ($1,200). Oxford Economics projects that a $100 million travel promotion program would result in millions more overseas visitors to the U.S. and yield at least $8 billion per year in new visitor spending plus $850 million per year in new federal tax revenue, the TIA says.
"This is exactly the economic stimulus America needs right now," said Freeman. "Congress must pass this bill before leaving town."
Freeman noted that the U.S. has made great progress in improving security measures since 9/11 but has neglected to ensure that security enhancements are balanced by sensible investments in travel facilitation and an effort to communicate changing security requirements to international travelers.