The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation approved S. 1023, the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. The bipartisan legislation seeks to create a public-private partnership with a budget of up to $200 million annually to attract international travelers to the U.S.
The U.S. Travel Association says the legislation will better communicate America's security policies and help the U.S. compete for international visitors. U.S. Travel cites an analysis by Oxford Economics that the program could drive $4 billion annually in new spending by international travelers to the U.S.
"Our nation's economy is struggling and international travel promotion is part of the solution," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "This much-needed legislation will help the United States to create thousands of new jobs and welcome billions in new spending by international visitors. Thanks to Senators Dorgan and Ensign, the United States is one step closer to joining nearly every developed nation in the world in competing for visitors, strengthening its economy and enhancing its image."
The Travel Promotion Act specifies that travel promotion would be paid for by private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers from countries that do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the U.S. The legislation requires no contributions from U.S. taxpayers. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate and passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, but did not receive a vote before the Senate adjourned. Overseas visitors spend an average of $4,500 per person, per trip in the U.S.
In support of early passage of the legislation U.S. Travel offered number of facts on declining overseas travel to the United States:
* International travel to the U.S. declined by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
* Despite a weak dollar that made the U.S. a travel bargain and 48 million more people around the world traveling "long haul," the United States welcomed 633,000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than in 2000 - remaining below pre-9/11 levels of overseas visitors for the seventh consecutive year.
* Had the U.S. kept pace over the last eight years with the average growth in global overseas travel, we would have received an additional 58 million visitors, $182 billion in new visitor spending and $27 billion in new tax receipts. In 2008 alone, overseas travel would have created 245,000 jobs.
* A U.S. Travel Association analysis of government data reveals that the travel industry will lose nearly 450,000 jobs between 2008 and 2009.