The Travel Promotion Act is back. As we reported in our news pages, it was reintroduced in the Senate during National Travel and Tourism Week, a fitting gesture that went down well at the U.S. Travel Association.
The new version of the bill is substantially the same as the bill that passed the House last year. It will put $200 million a year in the hands of a public-private Corporation for Travel Promotion.
The corporation will have a twofold mission: promoting the U.S. as a travel destination to foreign visitors and communicating U.S. entry and security policies to prospective visitors and to overseas media and travel marketers.
Part of that $200 million is expected to come from the industry, but a good bit of it would be generated by a fee to be imposed on visitors from Visa Waiver countries. We've never been particularly fond of this particular provision, but, on balance, this is a sensible bill and a critically important one.
Its passage would do much more than merely put the U.S. in the company of other developed countries that have national travel promotion programs. It would demonstrate that the U.S. government -- finally -- places a value on the contributions that travel and tourism make to commerce and trade, economic development, employment, education, science, the arts and diplomacy.
As summed up in the slogan for this year's National Travel and Tourism Week, "Travel matters."
Given the new political climate in Washington, this legislation now has excellent prospects. In fact, the chances of enacting national travel promotion legislation have never been better.
This particular measure passed the House by voice vote last year, and although it stalled in the Senate, U.S. Travel is fond of pointing out that six former senators and representatives who had been co-sponsors are now occupying senior jobs in the administration, including President Obama, Vice President Biden and four Cabinet secretaries: State, Interior, Transportation and Labor.
If the bill's supporters can't get it passed now, they should go hide.