President Obama signed the new Travel Promotion Act, on March 4, 2010, which is meant to increase foreign visitors to the United States. The act provides an agency, Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will have 11 board members to be overseen by the U.S. Commerce Department.
The board will promote foreign travelers to the U.S., which is expected to boost the economy, and will provide information for requirements to enter the United States. The public-private board will be comprised of representatives from hotel and hospitality groups as well as state tourism members.
Funding for the Travel Promotion Act
The new bill will be financed with a $10 fee on foreign travelers from the 35 countries that the U.S. currently has a visa-waiver agreement with. This includes most of the European nations. The fee will be collected every two years when registering online in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security's Electronic System for Travel Authorization . Funding also will come from a program of private-sector contributions matching up to $100 million.
Steven Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association states that "we don't want foreigners to have to jump through so many hoops that they just give up and don't bother coming to the U.S." The IATA represents at least 230 airlines worldwide. IATA also criticized the additional cost and the purpose of the fee, preferring that more time and money were spent on simplifying the customs procedure.
Other opponents say that an additional fee, along with the extra effort to register every two years on line with a credit card will deter foreign visitors from visiting the U.S.
Many Americans expect retaliation from foreign countries that will begin charging fees for U.S. travelers going abroad.
The Department of Homeland Security will have the task of implementing the process of collecting the $10 fee from those visa-waivered travelers. The U.S. Travel Association expects this could take five to 12 months to implement.
According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries there has been an increase in total visitation to the U.S. by 33% from 2003 through 2007, even though arrivals declined 31% from 2000 to 2003. After a decline in 2009, steady growth is expected through 2014.
Future for Foreign Travel to the U.S.
What will the impact of the new Travel Promotion Act be for future travel to the U.S.? Time will tell if the extra fee and time to arrange documentation for travel to the U.S. will be worth it to foreign visitors. Or will other countries increase the price for Americans to visit their countries?
Good marketing and promotion produced by the Corporation for Travel Promotion for travel to the U.S. will make a deciding impact as well. Then there are those that believe travel to the U.S. has already starting to rebound and that this program may not even be necessary.