After many months of getting Washington to understand the value and vulnerability of the travel industry in today’s struggling economy, I am elated that the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act passed in the Senate and was just signed by the President.
As chair of the U.S. Travel Association, which led the industry charge to pass this critical bill, I want to applaud the President and Senate for taking this major step toward strengthening the American economy. This new law, which we anticipate will be signed this week by President Obama, creates a multi-million-dollar public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier international travel destination and better clarify U.S. security and entry policies to potential foreign travelers.
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, as well as generate $321 million in new federal tax revenue each year. As mentioned in previous posts, this landmark legislation was sorely needed, as America’s travel industry was the only major country without a national tourism promotion budget. Not keeping pace with global competitors cost us 68 million visitors to the U.S. and more than $500 billion in total spending over the last decade.
In addition, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that, based on its analysis of government data, the U.S. travel industry lost nearly 400,000 jobs between 2008 and 2009. However, with this new program we can move forward, creating an estimated 40,000 new American jobs in the first year (Source: U.S. Travel Association) and helping reduce the federal budget by $425 million over 10 years (Source: Congressional Budget Office).
Although the California Travel and Tourism Commission was able to maintain its international tourism marketing investment to keep the Golden State’s profile high with global travelers, we were challenged by perceived post-9/11 U.S. entry barriers. The Travel Promotion Act gives the U.S. travel industry the chance it needed to alleviate foreign travelers’ concerns, providing an official platform and budget to spread a consistent welcoming message. Why should Californian’s care? Travel and tourism expenditures in California total $97.6 billion annually, $18.5 percent of which is international, supporting 924,000 Californians and generating $5.8 billion in state and local tax revenues.
Since international visitors stay longer and spend more, they represent the biggest growth opportunity for our state economy. The new Travel Promotion Act gives California a stronger position in the global marketplace, and the best part is it won’t cost taxpayers a dime. The law will be paid for by 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.
For more information about the Travel Promotion Act, please visit http://tourism.visitcalifornia.com. On April 14, 2010, plan to attend CTTC’s first ever Destination Day workshops outlining how California will be encouraging visitation to the Golden State in 2010/2011. Visit http://tourism.visitcalifornia.com/destinationday for more information!