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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 at the Travel Industry Association (TIA), said recently that the decline in overseas travel to the United States since 9/11 has cost America 46 million visitors, $140 billion in lost visitor spending and $23 billion in lost tax revenue. If the United States had simply kept pace with global travel trends in 2007, an additional 340,000 jobs would have been created, according to TIA.
"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 United States 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. Private sector contributions and a modest fee on foreign travelers that do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States would generate funds. It’s believed that nearly every developed nation in the world spends millions of dollars to attract visitors.
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), according to TIA. Oxford Economics projects that a $100 million travel promotion program would result in millions more overseas visitors to the United States, TIA said, and yield at least $8 billion per year in new visitor spending and $850 million per year in new federal tax revenue.
"This is exactly the economic stimulus America needs right now," said Freeman. "Congress must pass this bill before leaving town." Freeman noted that the United States 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.
A subcommittee hearing held on September 11, 2008, marks the beginning of the final push toward enactment of the bill. H.R. 3232 is co-sponsored by 240 Members of the House of Representatives, including more than two-thirds of the members of House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A Senate companion bill, S. 1661, co-sponsored by 48 senators, has already been reported to the Senate floor by the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.