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Senate Commerce Committee Passes the Travel Promotion Act of 2007; 
Addresses America's Growing Travel Crisis, Deteriorating Image Abroad
  

Passage S. 1661 – common-sense Federal legislation – a critical step to regain
overseas travelers, make U.S. more competitive in global marketplace

 
Washington, DC – June 29, 2007 - The nation’s mayors today joined with the with Travel Business Roundtable to praise the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) for their leadership on the introduction and passage of the Travel Promotion Act of 2007, S. 1661.  The legislation, which passed in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, represents a major step forward in restoring America’s place as a destination of choice for international travelers. 

The passage of the Travel Promotion Act coincides with increased interest in the issue of international travel to the U.S. on the part of the nation’s mayors.  Earlier this week, Mayors voted on and passed several critical travel resolutions, including one that called for the creation of a federal promotion campaign and important visa reforms.

S. 1661, the Travel Promotion Act, would create the following:

  • A Corporation for Travel Promotion, an independent, non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors appointed by the Secretary of Commerce;
  • A Travel Promotion Fund, using funds generated by a Visa Waiver user fee as well as private industry contributions; and
  • An Office of Travel Promotion at the Commerce Department with a new Under Secretary to develop programs to increase the numbers of international travelers to the United States. The Office would also coordinate activities with the Departments of State and Homeland Security to further improve the nation’s visa and entry processes for international visitors. 
Additional co-sponsors of S. 1661 are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Gordon Smith (R-OR), John Ensign (R-NV), and Mel Martinez (R-FL).  “Mayors, as CEOs of their cities, are on the front-lines dealing with this travel crisis,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels.  “Federal visa and entry policies, combined with the lack of a nationally coordinated promotion campaign, are crippling the economies of our nation’s cities and contributing to America’s declining image overseas.” 

“The Mayors have joined the Travel Business Roundtable in calling on the Federal government to enact legislation that will reverse these trends, thus making us more secure as a country,” continued Tisch.  “We applaud the leadership of Senators Inouye, Stevens and Dorgan for introduction and passage of this critical piece of legislation, and we look forward to continuing to work together so that America can regain its share of the world travel market.”

"No longer can we allow broken federal travel policies, which are costing us millions in lost revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs, to continue to hurt our nation’s cities," said Tom Cochran, executive director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. "Travel is an important element of our economy and an important diplomatic tool in improving our relations with other countries.  It is time that the Federal government starts working with the private sector, as the Mayors have done, to pass common-sense legislation.  The Travel Promotion Act is an important first step to creating vital public-private partnerships that will help make our country more competitive.”

"Additionally, as a member of The Travel Business Roundtable Board and as Executive Director of The United States Conference of Mayors, I know that, together, we will continue to be a fierce political force, working to persuade the 2008 candidates for President to create a new Cabinet level position that will lead the way in helping mayors and business leaders continue to promote travel and business activity here in the United States" continued Cochran.

In a recent survey of the Mayors, commissioned by the Travel Business Roundtable, over three-quarters of Mayors attributed the declines in overseas travel to the U.S. to a lack of marketing, uncertainty regarding travel documentation requirements, and unfriendly experiences at America’s ports of entry.

More than 80 percent of the 25 cities represented in the survey – including 19 of the top 20 inbound destination cities – invest in marketing overseas, spending an average of $2.3 million with a total of $21 million budgeted in 2007. 

Seventy-five percent of the responding Mayors indicated that their cities have seen substantial returns on marketing dollars spent overseas.  Philadelphia, for example, increased overseas marketing funding since 2001 and has experienced a 44:1 visitor spending and 3:1 tax generation return on investment.  In New York City, which also has a significant overseas marketing campaign in place, while only approximately 18 percent of visitors to New York City were from outside the U.S., they accounted for more than 45 percent of tourism dollars going into the city’s coffers in 2006.  Philadelphia and New York City are the only two cities that have experienced increases in overseas visitation since 2000.

Finally, over 75 percent of the Mayors surveyed stated that the promotion of travel as a diplomatic tool to improve America's image should be a priority for the 2008 presidential candidates, and over 80 percent stated that overseas travel policy should be prioritized by presidential candidates due to its role as an economic engine.

Overall, overseas travel to the United States has fallen 17 percent since its peak in 2000, with a cumulative cost of more than $100 billion in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in lost tax receipts. These effects have been felt acutely at the local level, where travel to the top 15 cities has declined 20 percent SINCE 2000.

The Travel Business Roundtable (TBR), a strategic partner to the Travel Industry Association, is a CEO-based organization representing all sectors of the travel and tourism industry.  TBR’s mission is to educate public officials and policymakers about the important social and economic contributions of the travel and tourism industry.  For more information, and to see a full copy of the TBR Mayors survey, please visit www.tbr.org.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.  For more information, and to see copies of the travel resolutions adopted by the USCM at their recently concluded Summer Meeting, please visit www.usmayors.org.

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Contact:

Courtney V. Fox
direct: 202-828-9757
courtney.fox@fleishman.com

 

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Also See: Travel Industry Association Has Misgivings Over New Deptartment of Homeland Security Plan to Phase in Cross Border Travel by Land and Sea / June 2007
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