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Passage of Travel Promotion Act Expected to Bring Thousands of Jobs to Nevada

By Jennifer Robison, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 24, 2010--Congress is just weeks away from passing a tourism bill that state and tourism leaders say will create thousands of jobs for Nevada.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a conference call Tuesday that the Travel Promotion Act would help reverse a slide in international tourism into the United States.

Reid cited statistics from the U.S. Travel Association and consulting firm Oxford Economics that show the country has lost 441,000 tourism-related jobs in the past decade. International travel worldwide grew 31 percent from 2000 to 2009, while global travel into the United States dropped 9.3 percent in the same period. That decline translated into 68.3 million fewer visitors, $509 billion less in spending and $32 billion in lost tax revenue.

"These numbers are scary," Reid said. "This (act) is something we need to do. In these difficult times, we're doing all we can to support the travel industry, and a shot in the arm from this act would help significantly."

The bill would establish a nonprofit corporation to educate international travelers about U.S. entry policies and promote leisure, business and educational travel to the country. It also would establish an Office of Travel Promotion within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Funding would come from $100 million in private-sector contributions and a $10 user fee that international travelers would pay when they visit the United States.

Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, said the source of the $100 million in private contributions will be determined after the bill is passed, but up to 80 percent of the support would consist of in-kind donations, such as advertising or creative assistance. The remaining 20 percent would likely entail cash purchases of services from the federal corporation.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the city's visitor volume is 15 percent international, and those global visitors keep about 30,000 Southern Nevadans employed. Boosting Las Vegas' international market share to 20 percent over five years would equate to roughly 5,000 to 6,000 new jobs, he said.

Nationally, the bill would create 40,000 jobs in the first year, the U.S. Travel Association said.

"It is truly a jobs bill across the board," Ralenkotter said.

Reid said he didn't know how big the promotion agency would be or what it would cost, but he said Congress must "make sure they have enough resources to do a good job."

A report from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that scores proposed bills for their effects on the federal budget, said the bill's job creation, revenue generation and economic impact would reduce the federal deficit by $425 million over the next decade.

The Travel Promotion Act could become law within three weeks, Reid said. At least three Republicans, including John Ensign, R-Nev., have said they'll vote for the bill, Reid added.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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