House Considers Bill to Increase U.S. Travel Among International Tourists

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently examining a bill that its sponsors say would improve the domestic travel economy by promoting U.S. travel to travelers in foreign countries, reports the Travel Industry Association (TIA). The bill, H.R. 3232, is being called the "Travel Promotion Act" and would establish a public-private partnership in order to communicate U.S. security and entry policies while also promoting the United States as a premier international travel destination.

"The United States is a travel bargain with the dollar at an all-time low and yet we welcomed 2 million fewer overseas visitors in 2007 than 2000," Geoff Freeman, TIA's senior vice president for public affairs, told Congress today in testimony before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "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."

According to TIA, the United States has experienced a rapid decline in overseas travelers—who it says spend an average of $4,000 per traveler, per visit—since Sept. 11, when increased security measures began sending the message that travel into the country by foreigners was difficult or undesirable. As a result, it suggests, the country has lost 46 million potential visitors, $140 billion in potential visitor spending, $23 billion in potential tax revenue and 340,000 potential jobs for Americans in the travel and hospitality industries.

"This is exactly the kind of economic stimulus America needs right now," Freeman said during today's subcommittee hearing. "Congress must pass this bill before leaving town."

If passed, the Travel Promotion Act will generate funds from the private sector and from foreign travelers—in the form of a modest fee charged to those that do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States—in order to market the United States in foreign countries. Currently, 240 members of the House are co-sponsoring the bill, which has a companion bill in the U.S. Senate that is being co-sponsored by 48 U.S. senators.

According to Oxford Economics, TIA reports, a $100 million travel promotion program would result in millions more overseas visitors to the United States and generate at least $8 billion per year in new visitor spending, not to mention $850 million per year in new federal tax revenue.