U.S. Senators Discuss Travel Promotion Act

Last week, U.S. Senators Bryon Dorgan (D-N.D.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced the so-called "Travel Promotion Act of 2009" to the Senate. The legislation is designed to stimulate the U.S. economy by attracting more overseas visitors to the country.

"The international traveler provides an important boost to businesses and state and local governments nationwide, spending on average some $4,500 per person, each time they enter the U.S.," said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Taking steps to attract the international traveler will act as an important short- and long-term stimulus for our economy."

The act would establish a public-private partnership to create the first-ever U.S. promotion and communications campaign. The promotion would be paid for by private sector contributions and a $10 fee on foreign travelers from countries that do not pay for visas to enter the United States.

Industry leaders have quickly expressed their support for this legislation. U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow issued a statement in which he said, "Building on more than 40 rallies that took place nationwide during [the May 12] inaugural Travel Rally Day, champions such as Senators Klobuchar and Martinez are helping our country better understand travel's unique ability to stimulate our economy in these tough financial times."

Other professionals, including Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Jay Rasulo, Chairman and CEO of Travelocity/Sabre Sam Gilliland, President and CEO of Carlson Hotels Worldwide Jay Witzel, and President and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Rossi Ralenkotter, gathered  at a Senate Commerce Committee panel convened by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) to share their thoughts on tourism and travel.

"This part of our industry has been the source of undeserved and crippling attacks in recent months," Witzel said, according to Star Tribune. "An environment has been created in America where legitimate business travel is being questioned and canceled. This translates into additional loss of jobs, taxes and travel-related revenues for an industry that is already hard-hit from the general economic recession."

Gilliland said: "Paralyzing confusion abounds in our industry and in corporations about what the Treasury Department considers 'luxury' and 'excessive' expenditures in the area of business travel. Meetings, conventions and incentive travel are proven business tools that allow companies to establish valuable relationships, solicit feedback and reward employees."

A similar legislation passed last year with bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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