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Travel Promotion Act signed into law

Photo courtesy National Parks Service

WASHINGTON — On March 4, President Barack Obama signed into law the long-awaited Travel Promotion Act, which provides a funding mechanism for promoting the United States to foreign travelers.

The bill, which had passed the House last year, was passed by the Senate on Feb. 25 with strong bipartisan support, 78-18.

“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 Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

The Travel Promotion Act creates the Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will work closely with the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and State to develop a nationally coordinated, multichannel marketing and communications program to attract more international visitors and explain changing travel security policies.

According to independent analysis by Oxford Economics, the program could attract 1.6 million additional visitors from other countries and create more than $4 billion in consumer spending annually.

The corporation will be funded through a matching program featuring up to $100 million in private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers who do not pay $131 for a visa to enter the United States. No money is provided by U.S. taxpayers.

The U.S. travel industry responded with expected delight and praise.

“The Travel Promotion Act is a significant step in the right direction for our national and local economies. This new program will bring critical international tourist dollars to our hotels, attractions, restaurants and transportation providers,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The Travel Promotion Act is what this economy needs right now in Michigan and throughout the United States. Travel employs 7.7 million Americans whose jobs cannot be outsourced, and more international tourism means more American jobs,” said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan.

“The program will allow the United States to be more competitive with other countries to attract international travelers. It will stimulate the economy and create jobs, all at no cost to the American taxpayer,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“This is common-sense legislation that we have needed for years to compete in a growing international travel marketplace,” said Gary Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

 “We need more foreign travelers to understand what America has to offer and how to get here, even with enhanced security measures in place,” said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., a strong supporter of the Travel Promotion Act, has introduced a bill in the House that would provide $50 million in matching federal funds to U.S. destinations for domestic travel promotion.

The Travel Regional Investment Partnership (TRIP) directs the Commerce Department to create a grant program that would provide competitive grants ranging from $100,000 to $1 million each.

“In today’s economy, investing in travel and tourism development is more critical than ever,” said Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association, which has urged Congress to pass the measure. “Even as the United States continues to face tighter budgets, attracting visitors to America’s destinations coast to coast for leisure, business and sightseeing trips is critical to our economy. Tourism spending is actually an investment.”