The U.S. will establish its first tourism-focused assistant secretary position as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending
bill passed by Congress Friday.
The massive bill includes the Omnibus
Travel and Tourism Act, which establishes the position of assistant secretary
of travel and tourism in the U.S. Department of Commerce, among other travel
ASTA’s executive vice president for
advocacy, Eben Peck, said that creating a high-level leadership position within
the federal government “would protect the industry from unnecessary setbacks
due to conflicting and confusing policy decisions in the future,” and
he said this person would “implement national strategies and policies
that grow travel.”
“This is a tremendous win for
travelers, the travel industry, and America’s economy,” said U.S. Travel CEO Geoff
Freeman. “The assistant secretary will play an important role as we partner
with government to lower visitor visa wait times, modernize security screening
and leverage new technologies to make travel more seamless and secure.”
Both Peck and Freeman pointed out
that the U.S. is the only G20 country without a federal agency or cabinet-level
official in charge of tourism policy.
With passage by the House, the omibus spending bill on Friday headed to President Biden's desk for his signature.
The bill’s passage was a major
component of ASTA’s policy priorities this year. During its annual Legislative
Day visit to Washington in June, more than 225 travel
advisors and suppliers representing ASTA advocated on
behalf of the Visit America Act legislation and shared their personal stories of how
government restrictions affected their businesses throughout the pandemic, Peck
“Their hard work paid off, as the
legislation tripled its co-sponsors in the week following ASTA’s
Legislative Day,” he said.