U.S. tourism measure draws mixed industry reviews

ATLANTA Thu Mar 4, 2010 5:22pm EST

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - The U.S. travel industry is hoping that a new tourism law will reverse a decline in international travelers to the country in recent years and create jobs, but some say the measure could backfire.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the Travel Promotion Act, a measure that will set up an 11-member board to develop a national multi-channel marketing campaign to draw foreign travelers and provide information on travel policies.

Industry executives say the act can help strengthen the U.S. economy and revive the sector, which has taken a hit as the recession dampened demand for air travel and led consumers to cut back discretionary spending at hotels and restaurants.

Jim Abrahamson, president of the Americas region for InterContinental Hotels Group, the world's largest hotel company, said there are lessons to be learned from other countries that use aggressive marketing campaigns to attract visitors.

"Today we're a marketing and messaging-driven economy," Abrahamson said. "We have to keep our product in front of customers."

Oxford Economics, a United Kingdom-based independent consulting firm, estimated that the initiative could bring in as many as 1.6 million new visitors to the United States a year and create 40,000 U.S. tourism jobs.

But some in the travel industry expressed concern about a $10 fee that will be charged every two years to visitors from countries that participate in the Visa waiver program. That fee, along with voluntary private sector contributions, will be used to pay for the program.

"We generally oppose tourism taxes, which this is," said Steve Lott, a North America spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airlines worldwide. "We're concerned about retaliatory action by other countries."

Lott added that national resources would best be directed toward addressing barriers faced by global travelers in the United States. For example, cutting the time required for foreigners to obtain a visa and minimizing security hassles at U.S. airports would do much to improve perceptions about traveling to America, Lott said.

The non-profit U.S. Travel Association said there has been a drop in overseas travel to the United States each year since the September 11, 2001, attacks. Last year, 2.4 million fewer overseas visitors came to the United States than in 2000, it said.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Richard Chang)

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Comments (4)
Extorting $10 from visitors is a stupid move.

If the US wants to improve tourism, it should get rid of the TSA and stop treating foreigners like criminals at its borders.

This is just another stupid action in a long list of stupid actions from the US government in the last 10 years. I hope the US tourism industry pays a heavy price for this latest act of stupidity by a very paranoid government.

Mar 04, 2010 6:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Zarkon wrote:
Why have customs and immigration officials at all? Just throw open the boarders and invite everyone in. No Visas, no lines, no hassle.

Mar 04, 2010 6:38pm EST  --  Report as abuse
I’m all for no visas, no lines, and no hassle. The US should not be fingerprinting people who want to come to the US and spend their money in a country hit hard by recession and unemployment. Nor should it make them jump through hoops to be approved for a visit. Anyone with a passport should be welcome to visit – no hassles, no harassment.

Because of this piece of legislation, people from all other countries should boycott the USA and drive it even deeper into recession. If the US wants to be paranoid and restrictive like China, it won’t be too long before China just takes over the debt-ridden USA. The USA deserves such a fate with legislation like this.

Mar 04, 2010 7:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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