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U.S. Travel Industry Lauds Congress for Action That Improves Security
and Sends Welcoming Message to International Visitors
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WASHINGTON, DC (December 19, 2007) – Travel industry officials today praised congressional leaders for passing legislation that improves and strengthens U.S. visa and entry policies to increase efficiency and enhance security in the travel process.  
 
The travel industry leaders noted broad congressional support for the travel-related provisions in the 2008 Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and expressed gratitude for the leadership of Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Harry Reid (D-NV), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Representatives David Obey (D-WI), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), David Price (D-NC), Harold Rogers (R-KY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).for ensuring the provisions were included.  The bill now awaits President Bush’s signature.
 
“These provisions are a holiday gift to our friends around the world and important first steps in helping to reverse the 17 percent decline in overseas travel to the U.S. since 9/11,” said Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Travel Industry Association.  “They demonstrate that Congress increasingly understands the importance of attracting international visitors to our country.” 
 
Jonathan M. Tisch, Chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Loews Hotels, added:  “Congress has embraced the importance of improving the travel process for visitors to the U.S., understanding that in doing so, we can add billions of dollars in travel spending to America’s economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs to the American workforce, and as important, help improve our reputation as a nation around the world.”
 
The travel system reform provisions included in the sections of the bill that fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State include:
  • $40 million for “Model Ports”:  This provision provides $40 million to fund a “Model Ports” program at America’s top 20 inbound international airports that would streamline the visitor entry process and make it more welcoming to international travelers. 
  • 200 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers: The funds allocated for Model Ports also will allow the hiring of 200 new officers to reduce processing times at the top 20 international airports.
  • Establishment of International Registered Traveler (IRT) Program:  This provision requires the Department of Homeland Security to establish an IRT program to expedite the inspection of frequent U.S. and international travelers arriving by air into the United States.  This would increase security by allowing CBP officials to target their attention on lesser-known travelers and bring the U.S. closer to productive negotiations with other governments successfully implementing IRT programs.  
  • $26 million for Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA): This provision provides $26 million to fund the development and implementation of a fully automated electronic travel authorization system to collect basic biographical information to determine, in advance of travel, the eligibility of a foreign visitor to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  Construction of the ETA is a prerequisite for expansion of the VWP to additional countries such as South Korea, Greece and newly-admitted European Union countries. 
  • Enhancements of US-VISIT: The $475 million allocated for US-VISIT to improve entry and exit tracking of foreign visitors includes funds for deployment of new fingerprint devices and software to reduce false positives and to begin construction of a biometric exit program at U.S. airports required to allow further expansion of the VWP. 
  • $5 million for mobile consular teams: This provision provides $5 million dollars to the Department of State to develop a capability to deploy mobile teams of consular officials to conduct visa interviews for would-be travelers who do not live near a U.S. consulate. 
  • $225 million for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI): This provision provides $225 million for WHTI implementation and requires certification from the Departments of State and Homeland Security if WHTI documentation requirements are imposed on travelers before June 1, 2009.  It also conditions $75 million on the departments submitting material to Congress that the technical architecture is sound and privacy issues have been addressed. 
Most of these provisions were called for by the travel industry in “A Blueprint to Discover America” in January 2007.  The industry is also urging the passage of the Travel Promotion Act of 2007 (S.1661 and H.R.3232), which would create a nationally-coordinated program to communicate these entry and security policy improvements through a public-private travel promotion campaign aimed at international travelers.  
 
“Legislation to improve our visa and entry processes is a critical step toward increasing international visitation, but now it is critical that we pass the Travel Promotion Act to let those visitors know they are invited to come,” Dow said.  “Travel is too important for us economically and diplomatically for us to not do everything we can to send a welcoming message around the world.”
 
The Travel Industry Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the $740 billion travel industry. TIA's mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States. TIA is proud to be a partner in travel with American Express. For more information, visit www.tia.org.
 
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, visit www.tbr.org.
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Contact:

Cathy Keefe
Travel Industry Association
202-408-2183, ckeefe@tia.org
 

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Also See: Senate Commerce Committee Passes the Travel Promotion Act of 2007; Addresses America's Growing Travel Crisis, Deteriorating Image Abroad / July 2007
TIA Chair Rasulo Touts New Long-Range Plan to Reverse Decline in Travel to U.S., Improve America's Image Abroad / February 2007
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