Skip to main content

Bill for U.S. travel promotion group headed to Obama's desk

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
The Travel Promotion Act calls for a nonprofit group that will promote the U.S. as a travel destination to international visitors.
The Travel Promotion Act calls for a nonprofit group that will promote the U.S. as a travel destination to international visitors.
  • Travel association says President Obama expected to sign bill into law soon
  • Bill will establish a public-private U.S. travel promotion organization
  • Part of the funding will come from fees paid by travelers included in Visa Waiver Program
  • Funding will be matched by private sector contributions

(CNN) -- 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.

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."

Dow said he does not think the $10 fee will have a negative impact on visitation, particularly when compared with entry and exit fees for other countries that are rolled into airline ticket prices.