Travel Promotion Act promotes visa fee to visit US


On November 9, the US House of Representatives passed the Travel Promotion Act, a bill that would create a national nonprofit tourism promotion corporation for the United States “to communicate United States entry policies and otherwise promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel” to international travelers. These travelers, which spend an average of US$4,500 per person when visiting the US, have experienced a steep decline since 9/11. Government officials are keen to get their dollars back into the US to boost the ailing economy.

The Travel Promotion Act, which would set up an Office of Travel Promotion within the US Department of Commerce, is now waiting for Senate passage before landing on the desk of the president. Executive approval is expected should the bill pass a final vote in the Senate before the current congressional session adjourns.

The US$10 fee has raised ire of visa waiver program participants, especially European members, which have enjoyed free entry to the US and have reciprocated an open entry policy to US visitors. In reaction to the initial Senate passage of the bill in September (a procedural technicality has forced two rounds of voting from each congressional body), Ambassador John Bruton, head of the European Commission delegation to the US, described the fee as “discriminatory” and warned that European countries would respond by implementing their own travel fees.

Our survey asked corporate travel professionals how they thought the funds might be applied, and more than 53 percent did not venture a guess. Approximately 20 percent accurately indicated that the funds would be used to create a national travel promotion organization, while 36.5 percent accurately believed the funds would be used to communicate and streamline the US security and immigration process.

Assuming that the Travel Promotion Act is approved and the fee is implemented, even survey respondents not familiar with the bill felt sure that visa waiver countries would implement reciprocal fees with seventy-three percent of respondents agreeing with this conclusion.