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Fri, Aug. 07

New act will encourage foreign travelers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Landmark legislation that establishes a multi-million dollar, public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and better explain travel security policies to foreign travelers gained final passage by a strong bipartisan vote of 78 to 18 in the Senate Feb. 25. According to independent analysis by Oxford Economics, the program could attract 1.6 million additional visitors from other countries and create more than $4 billion in consumer spending annually. The legislation, which passed the House in November, is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

"This is a historic victory for the U.S. economy and the one in eight American workers whose jobs depend on travel," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "The United States Congress has sent a clear message that travel is a high priority to our nation and that tangible steps must be taken to increase travel to and within the United States. We are extremely grateful to the bill's champions: Senators Reid, Dorgan, Ensign and Klobuchar in the Senate and Representatives Delahunt, Blunt and Farr in the House."

The Travel Promotion Act creates the Corporation for Travel Promotion, modeled after successful programs in U.S. states and other developed nations, with the mission of attracting more visitors to the United States. The initiative is funded through a matching program featuring up to $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers who do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States. The fee will be collected once every two years in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security's Electronic System for Travel Authorization. No money is provided by U.S. taxpayers.

"We know how successful a public-private partnership to promote travel can be from our own experience at the state level," said Caroline Beteta, chair of the U.S. Travel Association and president and CEO of the California Travel and Tourism Commission. "With the best minds coming together from government and private industry to boost international travel to our country, we can make travel an even stronger economic engine for America."

The corporation will work closely with the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and state to develop a nationally coordinated, multi-channel marketing and communications program to attract more international visitors and explain changing travel security policies.

"We could never have accomplished this common sense policy without our champions in Congress and the White House, and without the united and passionate voice of the travel community. The Travel Promotion Act shows what can be accomplished when the government and private sector work together to solve a problem," said Jonathan Tisch, Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and Chairman Emeritus of the U.S. Travel Association.

Research shows that international travel to the United States, especially from overseas origins, has suffered due to negative perceptions about travel processes following increased security reforms post 9/11. While international travel has boomed over the past decade, with 46 million more international travelers taking long-haul trips in 2009 than in 2000, the United States actually lost visitors, welcoming 2.4 million fewer overseas travelers than in 2000.

The failure of the United States to simply keep pace with the growth in international long-haul travel has cost a combined 68 million visitors to the U.S. and more than $500 billion in total spending over the last decade.

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