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Major victory for hospitality and travel industry

Ready to be signed by Obama: The Travel Promotion Act

Feb 26, 2010

A bill that will create a tourism promotion organization for the United States has received its final passage in the Senate.

The Travel Promotion Act calls for a nonprofit Corporation for Travel Promotion that will promote the United States as a travel destination and explain travel and security policies to international visitors.

"This is a historic victory for the U.S. economy and one in eight American workers whose jobs depend on travel," Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which the Senate passed 78-18 Thursday, in the next 10 days, according to the travel association.

A $10 fee charged to visitors from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program will partially fund the public-private organization. These visitors will pay the fee every two years when they register online using the Department of Homeland Security's Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

The rest of the funding will come through a matching program of up to $100 million in private sector contributions. If the corporation is able to raise the projected $200 million annually, the organization would be the largest national tourism communications program in the world, Dow said.

The National Restaurant Association today commended the U.S. Senate for successfully passing the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act, S. 1023, which will provide resources to promote international travel to the United States. The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama next week.

"The passage of this legislation has been a longstanding priority for our industry and we view this vote as a major accomplishment for the entire hospitality industry. We are pleased that members of the House and Senate saw this as a priority and worked together in a bipartisan manner to pass the Travel Promotion Act," said Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs for the Association.

"Restaurateurs depend on travelers, with some segments of the industry attributing as much as 40 percent of annual sales to visitors," said DeFife. "The Travel Promotion act will encourage more international travel and can boost restaurants' performance, which will spur job growth and help grow the economy."

The Travel Promotion Act creates a public-private partnership campaign to aggressively market the U.S. as a premier travel destination overseas, with the goal of increasing the number of international visitors into the country. The National Restaurant Association has long supported legislation to help attract more international visitors and establish the United States as a travel destination. Roughly half of all travelers report that they dine out when they travel, and dining out is the most popular activity planned after tourists arrive at a destination.

Earlier this week, the National Restaurant Association sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate calling for quick passage of the bill.

National tourism organizations in countries including Greece, Australia and Mexico each spent more than $100 million on tourism marketing in 2005, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization. The United States spent about $6 million the same year -- the last year for which figures are available.

Oxford Economics, an economic consulting and forecasting company, estimates a well-executed promotional program would draw 1.6 million new international visitors annually and generate $4 billion in new visitor spending.

Some opponents of the legislation said that charging overseas visitors a fee to promote the United States will deter them from visiting.

"We don't want foreigners to have to jump through so many hoops that they just give up and don't bother coming to the U.S.," Steven Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, told CNN before final passage of the bill. The IATA represents airlines around the world.

Lott said improving entry and exit procedures would help U.S. tourism more than a promotional organization.

Dow acknowledged the legislation is not a magic bullet for the industry.
"Let's not be naive here. Travel promotion is not a panacea for our international travel issues. There's many things we have to continue to work on such as ... continuing to improve our visa process and all the entry processes."

Ready to be signed by Obama: The  Travel Promotion Act
Source: CNN and eTN

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