Travel Promotion Act Passes; Program’s Launch is Next Step

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Washington, DC – Passage of the U.S. Travel Promotion Act and its anticipated signing by President Obama was saluted by business travel leaders as a time to both celebrate and encourage Washington to move forward with implementing the measure.

The bill will both promote travel to the U.S. and make it easier for international visitors, including trade show attendees, speakers and exhibitors, to get through the sometimes frustrating visa application process. The next step will be forming the organization that will actually formulate the programs.

The Corporation of Public Travel called for in the act will be run through the Department of Commerce and headed by an 11-member board of directors consisting of representatives of the travel industry. Once the corporation is launched, it will be responsible for developing the actual strategies to encourage travel to the U.S. and communicating the requirements for a U.S. visa.

The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) urged destination marketers and convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) to reach out to their local news media to maintain the enthusiasm for the program and salute local lawmakers who supported the measure. “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,” said USTA President and CEO Roger Dow. “We are extremely grateful to the bill’s champions.”

Talking Points
Dow said CVBs could keep the Travel Promotion Act and the benefits of the travel industry on the front burner by using a took kit of ideas and resources that will be issued by the USTA once the bill is signed and enacted. This will take place within ten days of the bill’s final passage on February 25.

In the meantime, CVBs can point out that:

  • The U.S. has simply not kept pace with the worldwide growth in international travel. While 46 million more people took long-haul trips in 2009 than in 2000, the U.S. had 2.4 million fewer visitors and remained below levels seen prior to 9/11.
  • The average overseas visitor to the U.S. spends more than $4,000 while in town.
  • A study by Oxford Economics estimated that a solid overseas promotional program could draw another 1.6 million visitors that would generate approximately $4 billion in new spending.
  • Until now, the U.S. was the only industrialized country not to have a national program to attract foreign visitors.

Bipartisan Victory
A timely angle to the story, Dow said, was the support for the program received from both sides of the aisle in Congress. President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., were singled out for congratulations, as were all of the travel industry leaders and employees who took part in the campaign to keep the legislation moving.

“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,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, and chairman emeritus of the USTA. “The Travel Promotion Act shows what can be accomplished when the government and private sector work together to solve a problem.”

Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or rdow@ustravel.org