Citing the contribution of travel to the economy, the U.S. Travel Association applauded the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security for approving a fiscal year 2014 spending measure that increases aviation security while fostering a travel experience that is more welcoming for all travelers.
"Funding for more Transportation Security and Customs and Border Protection officers and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program will strengthen U.S. aviation security, improve the air travel experience and welcome more international travelers. Expanding visa-free travel to the U.S. from select nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Israel and Poland, could increase annual visitation by more than 600,000, add more than $7 billion to the nation's economy and support more than 40,000 new U.S. jobs," Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association said.
U.S. Travel said the spending bill approved by the Subcommittee will:
• Allows for the expansion of the highly successful Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows citizens of friendly and allied nations to visit the United States without obtaining a visa;
• Provides funding to support 47,000 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers;
• Requires TSA to certify that one in four members of the traveling public are eligible for expedited screening by the end of 2013;
• Requires TSA to provide specialized customer service training to all airport screeners to aid passengers who need extra checkpoint assistance;
• Provides funding to hire 1,850 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers;
• Provides $28.8 million for CBP's trusted traveler program, mobile document readers and expanded activities at existing preclearance locations; and
• Requires CBP to share information about staffing decisions and CBP officer training with airport authorities.
"Travel adds nearly $2.0 trillion per year to the U.S. economy and is America's No. 1 services export," said Dow. "By encouraging more travel, the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill will help foster increased economic growth and job creation."