ATLANTA, March 4 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.
U.S. 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
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 (IHG.L), the world's largest
hotel company, said there are lessons to be learned from other
countries that use aggressive marketing campaigns to attract
"Today we're a marketing and messaging-driven economy,"
Abrahamson said. "We have to keep our product in front of
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 Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Last year, 2.4 million fewer
overseas visitors came to the United States than in 2000, it
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Richard Chang)