Bill would provide funding for state tourism ads

WASHINGTON -- States would be eligible for federal matching grants to help fund certain tourism marketing initiatives under a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Foley, (R-Fla.).

Dubbed the American Travel Promotion Act, the bill would "provide $100 million to match the money states and territories spend on travel and tourism through advertising," Foley said during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"Although $100 million may not sound like a lot of money," said Foley, co-chairman of the Travel and Tourism Caucus, "the impact will be felt from coast to coast. There isn't a district in this nation that is not impacted by travel and tourism."

Foley said every state would be eligible for 50% of what it spent on advertising through its travel and tourism office during the 1999-2000 fiscal year or if it spent at least $100,000 on marketing.

The travel industry has not recovered from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Foley said, noting that since Sept. 11 airplanes have been flying below capacity and hotel occupancy rates generally remain soft.

According to Foley's office, fourth quarter travel projects show business travel is expected to decrease 12%, while inbound travel is expected to drop 13%. At the same time, leisure travel will be off at least 9% for the quarter.

Meanwhile, AAA forecasts travel over the traditionally busy Thanksgiving holiday will be down 6%.

"We are about to lose nearly $60 billion in spending by travelers," he said. "We have to do something to make this right."

Otherwise, Foley said, "our economy will continue to suffer."

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