Senate Bill Easing Travel Entry to U.S. Receives Industry Plaudits

Washington -- Travel industry leaders today praised a Senate bill designed to ease visitor entry into the United States while tightening security against possible acts of terrorism.

"Congress is finally recognizing the important economic and diplomatic contributions of travel to our nation," said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and chief executive of Loews Hotels. "The passage of these reforms in the Senate is a first step to finding the right balance between secure borders and open doors."

Jay Rasulo, chairman of the Travel Industry Association as well as Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said, "These changes, if signed into law, will create more jobs, economic growth, and improve America's image around the world."

The Senate on Tuesday passed S.4, which implements recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and contains a variety of other provisions related to domestic security.

Among those provisions, travel industry organizations highlighted three that will improve travel into the United States: expand the Visa Waiver Program to include a greater number of countries, create model entry ports providing greater assistance to foreign travelers in the country's top 20 international airports, and hire at least 200 more border officials to alleviate staffing shortages.

The House passed its version of the bill in January, and a conference committee is expected to agree on a single bill to send to President George W. Bush. But Bush could veto the bill because a provision that both legislative bodies approved gives airport screeners collective bargaining rights.

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